Common Facts About Vitiligo

Updated on July 29, 2020

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with vitiligo, you may have questions about what it is and how it is treated. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about vitiligo. 

What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a condition that causes skin depigmentation. The discoloration usually occurs in patches. The condition is present in .2 percent to 1 percent of the world’s population, although it’s most noticeable in people with darker skin tones. 

What is the treatment for vitiligo?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for vitiligo. But there are a variety of treatments that aim to cover up or minimize the appearance of depigmented spots. 

One of the most effective treatments for vitiligo is home phototherapy. This treatment utilizes a handheld, portable device that gives off narrowband ultraviolet light therapy to stimulate melanocytes. While the treatment is conducted at home, it is supervised and prescribed by a physician. 

Phototherapy is safe and easy to use. Many people prefer phototherapy to alternatives like creams, steroids, and in-office treatment options. Narrowband ultraviolet B rays are a safe and effective treatment option that helps repigment the skin. At-home devices make it easier than ever to treat vitiligo by syncing with your smartphone and allowing you to take control of your treatment.

Other common treatments include topical medications, PUVA light therapy and surgery. 

Who gets vitiligo?

Vitiligo can affect anyone at any age..

More than half the people who develop the condition present symptoms by their 21st birthday. Still, the condition is seen evenly across all races and genders. 

Genetics (someone else in your family having the condition) or autoimmune diseases like Hasmito’s or alopecia can increase a person’s risk of vitiligo. 

What causes vitiligo?

Vitiligo is caused by the demise of special cells called melanocytes, which give color to our hair and skin. There’s no agreed-upon cause for why melanocytes die, but some believe that the vitiligo could be an autoimmune disease. 

Will vitiligo make me sick?

Vitiligo is a cosmetic condition that affects the way people look, but is still a medical condition that needs to be carefully monitored by a physician. 

If vitiligo occurs in the inner ear, it could affect hearing. Hearing loss, to some extent, is present in 12% to 38% of people with vitiligo, although such loss may not always be noticeable without a special test.

Skin that has lost its pigment is also extra-sensitive to the sun. People with vitiligo are susceptible to changes in vision, autoimmune diseases and depression. 

What can I do to take care of myself if I have vitiligo?

One of the best things you can do is wear a high-quality, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, every day. This, in addition to convenient treatment options like phototherapy, can go a long way in mitigating the negative side effects of vitiligo. 

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