Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder manifesting as white patches on the skin. It can show up on any part of the body, including the mucous membranes and the retina.
How vitiligo affected the confidence of a small boy in Arkansas, and how his morale was restored after meeting a dog with the same condition, has been widely reported.
Carter Blanchard had struggled with self-confidence because of his skin disorder, which his mother was very worried about. Both the boy and the dog, Rowdy, were diagnosed with vitiligo in 2014. Carter learned about Rowdy online through his mother Stephanie Adcock, who reached out to Rowdy's owner Niki Umbenhower. Adcock felt that Rowdy may help her son accept his skin condition positively.
When Carter and Rowdy finally met face-to-face, Adcock said the experience was life-changing for her son, noting how the dog made Carter feel better.
Symptoms Of Vitiligo
The primary symptom of vitiligo is the absence of skin pigment or the fading of pigment on the skin. Some observable patterns will also appear in depigmentation, with specific areas marked out on the loss of skin color.
Doctors say that vitiligo erupts from the destruction of cells called melanocytes, which are responsible for pigmentation. In some people, even the hair sprouting on vitiligo-affected parts will appear white. Genetic reasons are also associated with vitiligo.
Vitiligo is also considered an autoimmune disease, which implies that the body itself is attacking the pigment-making cells. It is inferred that proteins known as cytokines produced within the body alter the pigment-producing cells and are forcing their death.
In the spread of vitiligo, a segmental pattern is often observed with depigmentation happening on one side of the body.
In the generalized pattern, loss of melanin takes place on both sides of the body with a clear symmetry.
Depigmentation often appears on the face, arms, underarms, legs, hands, feet, lips, and groin. The lining inside the mouth may also be affected.
In diagnosing vitiligo, a review of the medical history and a test on a skin sample is the starting point. Family history and incidents of sunburns are also looked into.
When the biopsy of the skin is conducted, it will establish the complete absence of pigment and confirm the diagnosis.
Blood tests are conducted to verify vitamin B-12 levels and thyroid function. An overactive thyroid accompanying B-12 deficiency can spell a high probability for vitiligo.
Treatment For Vitiligo
There is a long-term treatment management for vitiligo aimed at pigment restoration to the skin using cosmetic methods.
Many therapies are used in treating vitiligo. Some of them are outlined below.
Creams: Topical corticosteroids are applied on the skin for at least three months. However, there may be some adverse effects when these types of creams are used, such as thinning of the skin or streaks appearing on the skin.
Immunomodulators: Drug clusters like immunomodulators are used in treating vitiligo. These ointments carry ingredients like tacrolimus and pimecrolimus. Mayo Clinic doctors have said pigment loss on small areas such as the face and neck can be advised for immunomodulator therapy.
Ultraviolet Light: In some patients, ultraviolet light therapy is used in restoring the pigment by using the medication psoralen for making the skin sensitive to the UV light treatment. A combination of psoralen and UV rays known as PUVA treatment helps to darken the skin's lighter areas.
Depigmentation: When the response to repigmentation on the white patches turns poor, the method of depigmentation is resorted to. Here, the remaining color is removed from the unaffected areas using a medication with monobenzone, lightening the skin so that the skin color will be uniform all throughout the body. This method is for those whose vitiligo has expanded to more than half of the body.