What are the symptoms of vitiligo?
In childhood, vitiligo frequently appears as 'halo naevi', in which areas of depigmentation surround small, pigmented naevi. (A naevus is any clearly defined skin abnormality present at birth.) The areas of depigmentation are usually seen first on skin that is exposed to light, particularly the face or back of the hands. Initially the pigment loss is often patchy, with areas of partial loss close to areas with complete absence of melanin. Often it is symmetrical with both halves of the body equally
affected, but occasionally only one segment of skin will be involved (so-called segmental vitiligo). Some sufferers will have the Koebner phenomenon, in which skin changes occur at the site of skin trauma. In this situation, vitiligo can develop at the site of abrasions, surgical scars and even eczema or psoriasis. The hairs in areas of vitiligo either remain pigmented or can go white (leukotrichia). Occasionally premature greying of hair can occur not only in vitiligo patients but also in their relatives.
People who develop vitiligo usually first notice white patches (depigmentation) on their skin. These patches are more common in sun-exposed areas, including the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. Other common areas for white patches to appear are the armpits and groin and around the mouth, eyes, nostrils, navel, and genitals.
Vitiligo generally appears in one of three patterns. In one pattern (focal pattern), the depigmentation is limited to one or only a few areas. Some people develop depigmented patches on only one side of their bodies (segmental pattern). But for most people who have vitiligo, depigmentation occurs on different parts of the body (generalized pattern). In addition to white patches on the skin, people with vitiligo may have premature graying of the scalp hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, and beard. People with dark skin may notice a loss of color inside their mouths.
Vitiligo causes light or white patches on your skin that are symmetrical (even), with well-defined dark or red borders. The patches can occur anywhere, but the areas most commonly affected are the backs of the hands, the face, and areas that have skin folds, such as the armpits and genitals. Body openings, such as the lips, eyes and nipples, and areas that have been sunburned are also common areas for vitiligo.
The loss of pigment may be rapid during the beginning stages of the condition, but later, the condition may not progress for long periods.
More information on vitiligo
What is vitiligo? - Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease in which pigment cells (melanocytes) are destroyed, resulting in irregularly shaped white patches on the skin. Vitiligo consists of white patches of skin.
What causes vitiligo? - In vitiligo, specific autoantibodies against a patient's melanocytes are found in the blood. Vitiligo may also be due to a nerve disorder.
What are the symptoms of vitiligo? - People who develop vitiligo usually first notice white patches on their skin. Vitiligo causes light or white patches on skin that are symmetrical.
How is the diagnosis of vitiligo made? - Important vitiligo diagnosis factors in a patient's medical history include: vitiligo in the family; a rash, sunburn, or other skin trauma, tress or physical illness.
What are the medical treatments for vitiligo? - The goal of treating vitiligo is to restore the function of the skin and to improve the patient's appearance. Vitiligo should be treated only if it causes emotional or social distress.
What are the surgical therapies for vitiligo? - Surgical therapies for vitiligo include autologous skin grafts, skin grafts using blisters, micropigmentation (tattooing), and autologous melanocyte transplants.
What alternative therapies are available for vitiligo? - Alternative therapies for vitiligo include sunscreens, cosmetics, counseling from support groups.