Skin

Updated 04 July 2014

Are you suffering from vitiligo? Here are the facts

Don't know what vitiligo is? Read on for the essential facts that you should know.

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First of all what is vitiligo?

Vitiligo (Pronounced: vit-ill-eye-go) is a skin disorder that causes white patches to appear in certain areas of the skin. This happens because the pigment cells (aka: melanocytes), which gives skin its colour is destroyed.

Read:
Skin problems? Which one are you going through?

What causes vitiligo?

The cause of vitiligo is not known, however, many scientists suspect that vitiligo is an autoimmune disease. What is an autoimmune disease you ask? It's basically when your immune system attacks and destroys certain tissues and cells in your body because it thinks that they're harmful, when in actual fact, they're completely healthy.

Scientists assume that if you have any autoimmune diseases, then it could lead to vitiligo. How is this possible you ask? Well if your immune system is destroying healthy cells in your body, then what can stop it from destroying your pigment cells? And we all know what happens when your pigment cells are destroyed.

Another theory that scientists believe may cause vitiligo is genetics. In other words, you may inherit genes that will make you susceptible to this disease.

Read: Salt may trigger autoimmune diseases

Is vitiligo treatable?

First of all, there is no cure for vitiligo, so the only way to treat it is to improve your appearance. Here are a couple of treatments to consider according to Medicine Net:

Medical treatments such as: steroid creams, medicines (pills etc)

Psoralen photo-chemotherapy also known as Ultraviolet: is a combination of an oral drug and subsequent ultraviolet light exposure. The treatment may affect certain blood cells and skin cells so that the skin disease clears.

Depigmentation: This treatment involves fading the rest of the skin on the body to match the areas that are already white. Patients apply the drug monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone (monobenzone) twice a day to pigmented areas until they match the already-depigmented areas.

Other treatments include: Sunscreen, cosmetics (such as: dye, make-up etc.), and skin grafts.


Watch this video where a woman with vitiligo shares her inspirational story:



Sources: Medicine Net, NIH, Health24

Read more:

Skin Condition Vitiligo Tied to Immune System Dysfunction
10 facts about autoimmune diseases


 

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Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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