Signs of Vitiligo

A skin disorder, Vitiligo can be brought on by various precipitating causes. Although Vitiligo can develop at any age, its signs often first appear between the ages of 20 and 30. Most individuals with this disorder are otherwise healthy and have normal skin sensation and texture. However, Vitiligo may be more common in people that have certain autoimmune diseases. These diseases may include vitamin B-12 deficiency anemia known as pernicious anemia, Addison’s disease, or thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Vitiligo also has a potential to affect all races and both sexes equally.

The primary sign of Vitiligo is the loss of pigment that gives color to the skin. Hair growing from the vitiligo-affected-areas also lacks color and appears as grey. Moreover, individuals with this disorder may get pigment abnormalities of the iris or retina of the eyes. Therefore, it is important to combat the other disorders that Vitiligo brings along. Once Vitiligo is diagnosed, its treatment becomes indispensable. However, the natural course of the disorder is difficult to predict. Sometimes Vitiligo marks stop forming without treatment, but in most cases, pigment loss involves most of the surface of your skin.

The exact cause of Vitiligo is still a mystery to the medical world. But, it’s often believed that stress, general low immunity level and hormonal connection are amongst several precipitating factors for this ailment. The occurrence of the skin disorder of Vitiligo about 28% is hereditary, 30% is worms infested and 42 % is stress related. Vitiligo patches generally appear with well defined edges because of peripheral hyperchromia. Vitiligo generally develops in one of three patterns which are:

  • Focal Pattern
  • Segmental Pattern
  • Generalized Pattern

In focal pattern, the pigment loss is limited to only a few areas. In segmental pattern, the signs of vitiligo appear as de-pigmented patches on only one side of the individuals’ bodies. While, in generalized patter, de-pigmentation occurs on different parts of the body. In addition to appearing as pale/white patches on the skin, individuals with vitiligo may also have premature graying of the eyelashes, eyebrows, beard, and scalp hair. Individuals with dark skin may even notice a loss of color inside their mouths.

People who develop Vitiligo usually first notice white milky marks on the skin of their bodies. The pale marks may develop on your eyes, face, neck, armpits, elbows, hands, genitalia, or knees. The vitiligo marks are more common in sun-exposed areas such as the face, lips, hands, and arms. It is also noted that the loss of skin pigment may be rapid during the early stages of the disorder. People who develop vitiligo usually have no itching, pain or other signs.
Upon seeing any of the aforementioned signs of Vitiligo, consult the doctor immediately. It is important to know whether the patient or anyone in his/her family has had any autoimmune diseases or whether the patient is sensitive to the sun. Moreover, it’s also important to know patient’s medical history which includes sunburn, a rash or other skin trauma at the area of vitiligo 2 to 3 months before de-pigmentation began; physical illness or stress; and premature graying of the hair before 35 years of age etc. The doctor then may be able to examine the individual with Vitiligo to rule out other medical problems.

Most of the times, people get scared upon seeing any pale patch on the skin and fear it to be Vitiligo. However, every white patch may not be of Vitiligo and may develop because of liver disorders, taenia infection, worms, calcium deficiency or even Leprosy. So, it’s always a wise move to consult the doctor immediately upon seeing white patches on your skin.

Generally, when somebody find white patches on his skin, then it is a clear indication of vitiligo. Normally, these particular white patches found on some particular are like:

  1. Hands
  2. Feet
  3. Face
  4. Lips
  5. Armpits
  6. Groin

Around the

  1. Mouth
  2. Eyes
  3. genitals
  4. Rectal areas

Vitiligo Apperance

There are three common types of vitiligo appearance which are given below:

  1. Depigmentation occurs symmetrically on both sides of the body and this is the most general type.
  2. In this type, depigmentation is restricted.

•  In the last type, depigmented patches grow only one region of the body.

Medical Identification of Vitiligo

We can also medically discover or find out vitiligo by giving some laboratory tests. To clear identification or diagnosis, we have to give a small sample of our affected skin to doctor who examin it under microscope and if our skin sample are without pigment melanocytes, than there is no vitiligo but if inflamed cells are present in our sample skin that it may recommend that pigmentation is caused by some other reasons. Pernicious anemia or hyperthyroidism are often connected with vitiligo and it is for this reason that sometimes doctor check a sample of blood-cell. Eye examination is also recommended to some people to check for verities which now and then happens from vitiligo.

Q: What is the appearance of Vitiligo? Who is more likely to suffer from it, men or women or children?

A: Vitiligo is characterized by the appearance of white patches on skin. These patches appear when melanocytes i.e. Melanin producing cells (these cells are naturally present in skin and produce Melanin which is a brown-black pigment that normally determines the skin color) are destroyed. As to how exactly these melanocytes are destroyed, science has noy yet been able to provide a direct answer because this disease is very little understood. Many causative factors have been proposed out of which Autoimmue disorder seems most plausible. As per this theory, an auto-immune reaction is incited against body’s own melanocytes and either destroys or renders them dysfunctional. As a result of which melanocytes stop producing melanin and a characteristic white patch of Vitiligo appears on that particular area of body. Vitiligo is a rare skin disorder. It affects only 1 – 2 % of the world’s population today. It affects both genders and all races. It can happen to anyone; be it men or women or children. People suffering from Vitiligo are likely to give birth to children suffering from Vitiligo but the disease Vitiligo per se is not genetic. For most the patients patches appear at around 40th year of their life and patches may spread slowly. 

Q: What are the early signs of Vitiligo? When do the signs appear?  

A: Vitiligo is symptomatic with the appearance of patches on skin. There are two types of Vitiligo;
1. Non-segmental Vitiligo:
• It can appear at any age.
• Patches maybe localized or generalized. Patches mostly are generalized to the whole body; a condition which is known as Vitiligo universalis
2. Segmental Vitiligo:
• It spreads rapidly
• It is not associated with auto-immune disorders.
• As opposed to Non-Segmental Vitiligo it is a much stable type and topical treatment works best for it.
Vitiligo patches mostly appear on
• Face
• Hands
• Wrists
• Mouth
• Eyes
• Nostrils
• Genitalia
• Umbilicus
• Rectal areas
Early graying of hair is one symptom of Vitiligo.
Loss of colour in oral cavity is also observed in some cases of Vitiligo.
The incidence of Vitiligo is 1% worldwide. Non-segmental form is more common. Vitiligo is a chronic disorder and does not occur overnight. For most the patients patches appear at around 40th year of their life and patches may spread slowly. There may be a gap of several months or years before the next patch appears. There is no way to tell if patches will spread. Spread of patches varies from person to person.  

Q: What could be called as the first signs of Vitiligo? Is it the appearance of patches on extremities?

A: First sign of Vitiligo is a Trichome. A typical Vitiligo patch is known as a Trichome having 3 layers/zones of color
• White center
• Zone of less severe depigmentation surrounding the center
• Zone of native skin surrounding the lesion
Vitiligo patches appear differently for different patients. They can appear on any part of the body. For some patients the patches can appear in a systematic way and may start from the extremities. It may not hold true for other patients. Since each person’s body reacts differently to a same thing and a little is understood of Vitiligo, it is impossible to be certain about how the patches will appear and spread. Most common sites of Vitiligo patches are the body parts that are exposed to sun i.e. hands, feet, neck, face, arms, groin etc.  

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