Vitiligo is a complicated skin condition, but its effect on your self-esteem is simple. Though many can embrace their unique skin, others opt for treatment, and thankfully there are many tools your dermatologist has that can treat the appearance of the condition.
Vitiligo is a somewhat rare, and mostly mysterious condition that causes patches of skin or hair to lose their color. Vitiligo occurs when melanocytes in the skin die. Melanocytes are responsible for the skin’s pigmentation. Vitiligo can affect anyone and most people with vitiligo get it before they turn 21. Vitiligo is usually a permanent loss of pigmentation in an area, though there are some rare examples of skin returning to its original color. Vitiligo often occurs symmetrically on the body, meaning it generally appears on both limbs or halves of the body in the same area. In rare cases, vitiligo can impact vision or hearing if it spreads to the eyes or ears. There is some support for vitiligo being hereditary, as you are more prone to have the condition if a close relative has it as well. Many people get it with no family history, however. Your chances of developing vitiligo are also higher if you have certain autoimmune diseases, including alopecia areata. Many theories point to a type of vitiligo, non-segmental vitiligo, as being an autoimmune disease itself, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks melanocytes. Segmental vitiligo is believed to be caused by a nervous system disorder. None of these theories are fully substantiated or supported, but thankfully treating vitiligo isn’t impossible.
For some, vitiligo may not be a detriment to your self-esteem, but for others vitiligo can cause depression. Rather than withdrawing from your social life, you may want to opt for the easiest, non-medical way to deal with vitiligo. For children and others who are sensitive to medical treatments, learning to cover and conceal vitiligo is the best option. Makeup, self tanner and skin-safe dyes can all be used to restore a sense of normalcy to your skin tone. For many, getting your skin to look natural can be difficult but with some practice many can effectively conceal vitiligo.
While covering up vitiligo is a perfectly acceptable treatment, it can be time consuming and challenging. What if you don’t want to wake up each morning and apply makeup precisely to your vitiligo? Your dermatologist may prescribe a powerful, topical corticosteroid or other drug to help restore your melanocytes. This topical treatment is best for smaller areas of vitiligo, and they’re especially effective on vitiligo of the face. Corticosteroids are less effective on vitiligo in other parts of the body. Other topical medications may help restore your skin’s natural color as well, and in many cases corticosteroids are used to supplement these treatments. Corticosteroids are most effective on people with dark complexions. Results are noticeable in about 4-6 months. Medication will need to be maintained to keep skin its natural color.
If corticosteroids and other medications aren’t enough, light and laser therapies could help get skin back to the way it was. Depending on the size and location of the spot, your treatment can vary from a generalized light box to a laser treatment. The goal of light and laser therapy is to balance skin tone by safely tanning the skin. UV light in lasers and lightboxes helps the skin produce more melanocytes. In most cases, light and laser therapies require a steady commitment of many sessions, and results are not permanent. For some people, the treated skin may be darker than the surrounding skin for a while following laser therapy, but it will eventually even out and match. Like the other treatments outlined, both laser and light therapy alone are often not enough but combined with other dermatologist-administered treatments, vitiligo can be greatly improved.
Vitiligo can be challenging for a number of reasons, but fortunately your dermatologist has a variety of tools for treating your condition. For vitiligo consultation and treatment, contact the people you can count on at Northeast Dermatology Associates.
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