Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that affects the skin. Symptoms of the condition are whitish or creamy areas resulting from decreased levels of melanocytes in the skin. These cells produce melanin, a pigment that determines the patient’s natural skin color. People with this disorder will have white skin patches on their skin that are often irregularly shaped and in various sizes on the body. Although the condition can occur to individuals in every race and in all environments, researchers report that it’s most common in those with darker-toned skin colors. Goodman Dermatology diagnoses and treats patients with all skin diseases and disorders.
According to the American Vitiligo Research Foundation, this is a relatively rare condition affecting up to one percent of the world’s population. Scientists have many clues but no one knows with certainty about vitiligo causes. Children before the age of ten may develop lesions but the condition is most likely after the age of thirty.
Evaluation and Diagnosis
Patches appear most commonly on the patient’s neck, arms, armpits, legs, eyes, navel area, genitals, lips, or face, or in areas of the skin previously exposed to the sun. When the patch of skin loses melanocytes, hair follicles on the head, body, brows, and lashes turn grey or white. Some patients may experience relatively sudden grey or white hair growth at the roots. Other patients’ hair grows in grey or white as old hairs are shed.
The condition presents in several degrees of severity:
- General depigmentation occurs when all skin on the skin loses melanocytes and pigmentation.
- Segmental depigmentation means that the skin loses pigmentation on just one side of the body.
- Focal depigmentation occurs when various skin areas, on various body parts, lose skin color.
Autoimmune Disease and Other Factors
The number of lesions may increase over time without treatment. Autoimmune disorders frequently present in clusters: patients with this skin condition may have other autoimmune diseases such as alopecia areata, Addison’s Disease, uveitis, or hyperthyroidism. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have identified approximately one hundred different autoimmune diseases. A patient with an autoimmune disease or disorder suffers from the body’s continual attack of its own cells. In this disease, the patient’s body sends attacking cells called cytokines to the melanocytes. The melanocytes eventually die and decrease in number until white or light colored patches appear on the patient’s skin.
Certain vitamin deficiencies can cause the condition to develop in some people and some researchers recommend nutritional evaluation as part of the patient’s evaluation and treatment. If the patient has nutritional deficiencies, correcting them with proper nutrition can stop the progression of the condition. Dr. Marcus B. Goodman may order several blood tests to evaluate the potential presence of other conditions.
Researchers aren’t certain about vitiligo causes. The Mayo Clinic believes that genetics or heredity play a factor in the development of the disorder. Medical statisticians say that a parent with vitiligo is more likely to predispose the patient to developing it at some point in life. Goodman Dermatology will take the patient’s complete medical history during an office appointment.
Johns Hopkins University research report probable vitiligo causes such as skin trauma, including sunburns, injuries, or rashes, can make the patient more susceptible to the condition. After trauma, the patient may develop white patches in the skin as it heals, usually within three months of the injury. When the patient’s hair turns grey early in life, such as before thirty-five years of age, he or she may have the condition. Severe stress and illness are also considered risk factors of the disease.
Patients may lose color in the mucous membranes as a result of the condition. For instance, the patient’s normally pink inner mouth turns cream-colored or white when melanocytes decrease. This symptom can cause extreme embarrassment and social avoidance in some patients.
In other patients, the condition causes the eye retina, found at the back of the eyeball, to change color. Although some changes in color are minor, some patients lose all retinal color. Dr. Marcus B. Goodman may recommend an optical exam for any patient with suspected retinal changes.
Goodman Dermatology is located in Roswell, GA, and patients in Alpharetta, Cumming, Johns Creek, Canton, Dawsonville, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Northeast Cobb County, East Cobb, and Woodstock will find the office location is within convenient driving distance to the office. Patients with concerns about this condition should call Dr. Marcus B. Goodman for an appointment today at (770) 754-0787.