Vitiligo might sound like a rare skin condition, but the reality is that it's more common than you think. Whether you know someone with vitiligo or you just want to learn more about the condition, here are a few things everyone should know about vitiligo and what exactly it is.
Vitiligo is a skin condition that affects skin pigmentation. Specifically, vitiligo causes a loss of skin pigmentation. It’s most commonly characterized by white spots or patches on a person’s body. People of all skin types and colors can have vitiligo to varying degrees. Some people may only have small white spots that are barely visible. Others may have large affected areas all over their bodies.
Vitiligo produces a wide range of skin pigmentation appearances. In fact, there are three types of vitiligo: focal, generalized, and segmental.
Focal vitiligo is characterized by a few spots in a concentrated area. These spots can be stable for years at a time, and may not spread anywhere else.
Generalized vitiligo takes the form of many spots and patches all over the body. These patches typically affect both sides of the body and tend to be symmetrical. This is the most common form of vitiligo.
Segmental vitiligo is the least common of the three. This type of vitiligo is characterized by spots or patches that are isolated to one side of the body.
Vitiligo is not a form of skin cancer, nor is it an infection of the skin. In fact, vitiligo isn't medically dangerous on its own. The biggest risk people face with vitiligo is an increased risk of sun damage. Without melanin to protect the skin from UV rays, sun exposure and tanning are more likely to lead to serious skin rashes and conditions, even skin cancer. Outside of that risk, vitiligo doesn’t have any known medically dangerous effects.
As we reviewed above, vitiligo is not medically dangerous, nor is it an infection. It’s also not contagious. The root vitiligo causes remain unclear, but it’s not possible to “catch” it from someone. This condition’s most adverse effects are on self esteem and social stress. If someone you know is diagnosed with vitiligo, it's important to offer them your support, not harsh questions.
While there is currently no cure for this condition, there are vitiligo treatment options for various symptoms. The treatment you choose will likely depend on the type of vitiligo you’re diagnosed with and any other skin conditions you might have. For example, people with minor spots may be advised to use a concealer or foundation to even out skin tone. For more widespread vitiligo, a dermatologist may recommend prescription options to help even skin tone. Some of these may need to be applied by your dermatologist on a regular basis.
It may seem like vitiligo is more common today than it was in the past, but the reality is that it just has more of a spotlight. Public figures like Manny Guttierez and Winnie Harlow have come forward to bring awareness to vitiligo symptoms and causes, as well as what it’s like to live with this condition. Considering that the majority of vitiligo diagnoses occur in children and teens, casting some light on this skin condition may help the next generation feel more at home in their skin.
There may still be some things we don't know about vitiligo, but our aim here is to provide a basic understanding for everyone. If you think you may have vitiligo and want a diagnosis, or if you’re exploring vitiligo treatment options, contact SE Dermatology Specialists today.