One estimate says that as many as 50 million people are affected by Vitiligo around the world, and the vast majority develop Vitiligo before middle age.
Review the key facts below to gain an understanding of this distressing condition and put yourself in a position to offer practical help and support.
Just exactly what is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder which causes white patches of skin to develop on various parts of the body. Mucous membranes found inside the mouth, nose, and genital areas are destroyed. Often hair that grows in areas affected by Vitiligo turns white also.
Vitiligo is NOT contagious!
How is Vitiligo most easily recognized?
The white patches of skin often develop in certain recognizable patterns:
1. The Focal Pattern is where blotches of white skin appear in small limited areas
2. The Segmental Pattern is where patches of white skin appear on one side of the body only
3. The Generalized Pattern is where the areas of pigmentation disorder appear on many and various parts of the body
Parts of the body often affected are around the mouth, eyes and nose, as well as the underarms and also the genital areas.
Who are most likely to be affected by Vitiligo?
There is no delineation according to gender or even race. One common factor though is that Vitiligo sufferers often have an auto-immune disease where an individual's immune system works against their own body organs.
Heredity can also be a factor although the majority of children of parents with the condition are not affected.
What tests are necessary for a doctor to diagnose Vitiligo?
These may include a small biopsy and a blood sample. The doctor may also delve into a person's medical and family history to see if there are other cases of auto-immune disease.
How fast does Vitiligo spread to other parts of the body?
This is very much an individual matter. In some Vitiligo sufferers the condition remains isolated to just a few areas. In others the white patches begin to spread at varying rates. Reports indicate in the majority of cases the blotches will progressively spread.
Are there any other effects from Vitiligo?
Many persons with Vitiligo suffer varying degrees of emotional stress and depression. In the case of young persons especially the effect can be psychologically devastating due to concerns on how they will be accepted by their peers.
When visible body areas are affected an individual may withdraw and not wish to socialize due to fear of being stigmatized.
In view of this, family and friends need to offer strong emotional support, being willing to listen and empathize. There are various support groups and organizations available which do an excellent job. (See the research library in the resource box at the end of this article. )
What solutions are available for Vitiligo sufferers?
Concealing cosmetics can be used to mask the skin contrast.
A variety of medical and surgical procedures are available including steroids, skin grafting and tattooing which implants pigment into the skin.
As research is ongoing, it is wise to check with a medical practitioner to find out the latest options available for Vitiligo sufferers.
In conclusion, it must be recognized that Vitiligo can cause acute distress to those with the condition even though it is not contagious. The emotional and psychological effects however can be contained and minimized through the understanding and support of family, friends and acquaintances.
Free Vitiligo Research Library:
Plastic Surgery Research:
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