Dermatologist Dr Anna Chapman explains what is Vitiligo, what causes Vitiligo, what are the signs and symptoms of Vitiligo and how a Dermatologist treats Vitiligo.
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Vitiligo is a condition of pigmentary changes in the skin. By definition it is the loss of pigment that defines vitiligo. The condition affects about 1 percent of the population and it is particularly troublesome in darker skin as the contrast of pigmentary loss and normal skin colour can be quite distinct. The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown but it is considered an autoimmune condition. This is supported by the fact that a number of autoimmune conditions can be associated with vitiligo. These include pernicious anaemia, diabetes and thyroid disease.
Vitiligo usually presents around the bodies orifices and it is often in a symmetrical distribution otherwise, so the initial presentation could be distinct patches of pigment lost around the mouth or perianal region or in genital skin in general. It is also often seen at the back of the hands and also at the areas of sun exposed skin otherwise. The features of vitiligo are usually very distinct of uniformly hypopigmentated patches looking almost white regardless of the general colour of the skin. However some other skin conditions can look very similar and a Dermatologist occasionally needs to perform a biopsy to distinguish between them. The features on biopsy are that there is a loss of melanocytes in the epidermis.
There are a number of issues in the treatment of vitiligo. The most important one is to diminish the appearance of vitiligo as it can be very emotionally and socially disturbing for the sufferer. Therefore initially we offer treatments that work as a camouflage to minimize the appearance of vitiligo. Treatments that minimize the spread of vitiligo are also important. These are usually steroid creams or calcineurin inhibitors. We believe that the sooner the treatment starts the better the outcome. Another form of treatment is light therapy. Traditionally PUVA is prescribed (the abbreviation stands for Psoralen and Ultraviolet light. Apart from ultraviolet light, atural light can also help the repigmentation of vitiligo patches. It is however exceptionally important to wear sunblock in heavy sun exposure to prevent sun damage and skin cancers in the future.
This video on how a Dermatologist treats Vitiligo is part of the series of Dermatology video’s on dermatology conditions, produced to help patients and their families, general practitioners and other specialists, and for those who are interested in Dermatology. You can watch all the videos on The London Skin and Hair Clinic YouTube channel.
Looking for further information? You can find out more about Vitiligo here.