Vitiligo is a type of skin disease in which light colored areas occur due to loss of pigment in the skin, although the exact cause is unknown. This disease, which can be named in different ways as folklore or tawny disease, can be seen at any age, but it usually starts to show symptoms before the age of 20. Vitiligo, a common disease, is observed in approximately 1 or 2 out of every 100 people. It is not a contagious disease. Vitiligo, which only affects the appearance of the skin, does not cause any physiological problems in patients. The size of the disease and the spots on the skin surface vary from patient to patient. In the treatment, methods are used to help the skin regain its former color.
What is vitiligo disease ?
In the human body, cells called melanocytes are responsible for the production of pigments that give the skin its unique color. Damage to these cells for any reason adversely affects pigment production and causes vitiligo. Depending on the lack of pigment, some white spots of various sizes appear on the surface of the skin. Depending on the type of disease, the areas where the spots occur and the tendency to spread may vary from person to person. In some types of vitiligo, only a certain part of the body is affected, while in some patients the spots can spread throughout the body. It is important to start the treatment process as soon as the spots are noticed in vitiligo disease, which affects the patients psychologically because it causes an undesirable appearance on the skin.
What are the symptoms of vitiligo disease ?
Vitiligo is a type of disease that can occur at any age from childhood to adulthood. Symptoms of the disease usually appear in areas exposed to sunlight. White spots, which are a sign of the disease, are more likely to be seen in areas such as hands, arms, face, neck, legs that are in more contact with the sun. In some people, spot formation can also be observed in the genital area. Apart from this, depending on the structure of the skin, the disease is more easily noticed in women than in men. Because the spots can be distinguished more clearly, the disease is easier to notice in dark-skinned people. The first and most common symptom of vitiligo is the sudden whitening of a certain spot on the skin. In some cases, a small white spot can grow over time and reach a size that covers a significant part of the skin. Vitiligo is not an internal organ disease, but a condition that occurs only due to the coloring cells in the skin. Therefore, it does not give any symptoms other than the white spots on the skin.
What are the causes of vitiligo disease ?
Although the exact cause of vitiligo is not known, there are some issues that are known to increase the risk of developing the disease. It is known that more than one of these factors coexist in most patients and cause the disease. The autoimmune mechanism is one of the most important factors held responsible for the development of the disease. This mechanism can be defined as the body's immune system sees its own cells as a threat and develops a defense against them and destroys its own cells. The autoimmune response developed against melanocytes can cause damage to the cells and negatively affect pigment production, which can lead to the formation of vitiligo disease. Apart from this, other factors thought to play a role in the formation of vitiligo can be listed as follows;
-Autoimmune thyroid diseases (goiter)
Another important factor known to be effective in vitiligo disease is genetic factors. When all vitiligo patients are examined, it is seen that approximately 30% of the patients have a family member with this disease. In addition, it has been determined as a result of studies that the probability of the disease is higher in black-skinned individuals living in regions such as Morocco and Yemen compared to other individuals. Early diagnosis and early treatment are very important in terms of increasing the success rate and minimizing the formation of stains in the treatment process of the disease.
How is vitiligo disease diagnosed ?
The diagnosis of vitiligo can be made by detecting white spots during a physical examination by a dermatologist. In order to confirm the diagnosis, an examination with a light called Wood's light is required. During the examination with Wood's light, the visibility of the spots increases, and skin differentiations and small white spots that cannot be seen under normal light can be easily detected with the help of this light. It is usually possible to diagnose vitiligo disease with clinical examination and examination under Wood's light. However, in some cases where it is deemed necessary by the physician, different diagnostic tests such as skin biopsy and pathological examination are also used. It is also possible to use some blood tests to investigate whether the disease is of autoimmune origin. Individuals diagnosed with vitiligo as a result of examinations and diagnostic tests should act carefully in line with the recommendations given by their physicians in the next stages of their lives, and should take care to fully fulfill the treatment requirements.
How is vitiligo disease treated ?
The main purpose of all medical procedures and treatments for the treatment of vitiligo is to restore the skin color. If possible, these factors should be eliminated or mitigated by conducting research on the cause of the disease. If the disease occurs due to an autoimmune mechanism, immunosuppressive agents can be used. Regardless of the cause of the disease, if deemed appropriate by the physician, light therapy aimed at stimulating the melanocytes, which are responsible for giving the skin its natural color, can be applied. Light therapy, also called phototherapy and excimer laser therapy, is an application aimed at preventing the formation of spots and eliminating existing spots by supporting the production of the pigment called melanin, which gives color to the skin from melanocytes. Antioxidant supplements can also be applied to patients with vitiligo to reduce oxidant stress.
It is possible to benefit from some creams in the treatment of the disease. Creams containing tacromilus and pimecrolimus or containing cortisone can be used to remove the spots that occur due to the disease and to prevent the formation of new spots. However, all these creams should be used under the supervision of a physician, as they may cause structural disorders and differentiations in the skin due to long-term use. Depigmentation is another treatment method that can be preferred in patients where white spots spread to the whole body and the size of the spots is very large. With this treatment, the pigments on the entire skin surface are destroyed and the whole body is equalized in white color. The loss of pigment in this treatment with a chemical called monobenzylether is permanent and the treatment lasts for approximately one year. Since vitiligo disease accelerates the formation of spots due to the sun and white spots can easily burn in the sun, patients should definitely use sunscreen with a high protection factor. These creams should be chosen among the products of the brands recommended by the physician and should be used continuously, not only in cases such as sunbathing or swimming, but also at all times when outdoors during the day.
Vitiligo can often cause psychological problems such as unhappiness, decreased self-confidence, depression and stress in patients because it changes the external appearance undesirably. For this reason, vitiligo patients should be evaluated psychologically, and if such a problem is detected, psychological support should be provided in addition to the treatment for the disease. If you also have vitiligo, you can get treatment by consulting a dermatologist, and by paying attention to the recommendations and treatment principles of your doctor, you can eliminate the effects of your disease to a large extent.