What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo has always been close to my heart as two members of my immediate family have the condition.

It’s one of the BIG mysteries of the skincare world. It only affects around 1% of the population and causes sudden pigment loss – leading white patches to appear randomly on the body.

These white patches are supposedly most common in areas exposed to the sun – so on the hands, face and neck. But I wonder if that’s not just because these areas are on show more and tan first. If melanin patches on your skin are browner there is more contrast – so it makes the white (non-melanin) patches more conspicuous.

In the case of my family, vitiligo first appeared on points on the body where pressure was most regularly applied, along the belt line on the waist for instance.

I suffer with a form of dermographism so maybe my family’s vitiligo is more closely linked to my chronic urticaria than I ever realised!

What causes Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is fundamentally caused by a lack of melanin – the pigment which gives skin colour and natural sun protection, but what’s unclear is why the melanin stops being produced in the first place.

It is thought to be an autoimmune and inflammatory condition – so potentially onset by illness, viruses or even adrenal stress.

It’s also very hereditary!

Is there any treatment available?

Unfortunately it’s nigh on impossible to reverse the condition, once the melanin has gone it’s gone. So it can become a case of just trying to make it less obvious through things like camouflage creams.

They require a fair bit of work though and it can be hard to get a perfect colour match, as the skin is rarely a universal colour on different parts of the body!

Some vitiligo sufferers have had positive results from phototherapy or ‘light therapy’, where the skin is exposed to UVA light from a special lamp which is supposed to help return the pale patches to their original colour.

It’s never worked for anyone I know but perhaps it needs to be conducted at an early stage of the condition? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You might enjoy these