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What is vitiligo?

It is a skin condition of unknown origin where in patient’s pigment producing cells stops producing colour leading to appearance of white patches on the body.

How is it caused?

No one knows the exact cause of vitiligo. There are multiple theories which are put forth none of them proved completely.

There are few other reasons of white patches on body. All white patches are not vitiligo. Many patients develop white patches in a particular pattern for example patient might develop white patch underneath her bindi, rings, or their ornaments, chappal straps. These all are cases of post allergy white patches and is called as leucoderma.

Many infections such as tinea versicolor and leprosy may also cause white patches. All these needs to be carefully examined to be differentiated from each other.

Is it infectious?

No it is not at all infectious. It never spreads by touch. In very rare cases it may be hereditary and very rarely may pass on to next generation.

Who can suffer from vitiligo?

It can happen at any age from new born to old age person and equally in males and females.

How does it look like?

It looks like hypo pigmented to de pigmented, ill-defined to well defined patches which can be present anywhere on the body as well as scalp. Sometimes white hairs might come out of the white patches. Patch may be single or multiple either in one part of body or covering different areas of body.

Do they spread?

Yes, if left untreated for long time patches may increase in size as well as in number. Very rarely white patches may regain colour on own.  

Can it be treated?

Yes, definitely it can be treated. There are multiple modalities of treatment available to treat vitiligo. Creams can be used to treat smaller areas. For fast spreading and larger areas oral medications are advised.

Newer modalities of treatment

Multiple laser systems such as excimer light can be given to fasten the re-pigmentation, Q switched ND:YAG laser can be used to permanently remove the colour if very few areas of pigmentation is left on body and rest of the body is depigmented to give uniform colour.

UVA chamber/ UVB light- these light systems can be used if larger body areas are involved.

Can surgery treat vitiligo?

Yes, surgery is one of the treatment options for vitiligo. If the patched of vitiligo are not increasing for at least last 6 months we can do skin grafting to bring permanent colour.

Melanocyte culture transfer is the new feather in the cap. This is a minimally invasive technique in which melanocytes are taken from other areas of body and transferred to white patches. Give more colour matching.

Can vitiligo come back?

No one can be sure about it. Only time can tell. Once the existing patches are treated new patches may not occur for rest of the life. But in many cases after successful treatment of current patches new patches might keep coming at different interval of time. It may spread slowly or may spread very fast in few people.

What precautions has to be taken?

 Avoid any injury. In few patients new vitiligo patches may occur at the site of injury. So avoid wearing tight clothes, anklets, bracelets etc. Stress is a major factor which might increase the patches of vitiligo. So do not take stress, it not a dreaded disease. It’s just that it looks different

Next time you think of beautiful things, don’t forget to count in yourself!!!