5 Ways to Manage Vitiligo

5 Ways to Manage Vitiligo

If you’re one of the millions of people living with vitiligo, you know how this skin disorder can have a big impact on your quality of life. Although vitiligo doesn’t affect your physical health, it can hurt your self-esteem, confidence, and outlook.

At the private practice of dermatologist Allen A. Flood, MD, we understand the devastating effects skin conditions of all kinds can have, including vitiligo. We also know not all cases of vitiligo need the same type of treatment. 

That’s why Dr. Flood first accurately diagnoses your condition, then recommends the best treatment options for your case. Keep reading to learn more about this autoimmune disease and your choices for managing it. 

What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a noncontagious autoimmune condition that causes loss of skin color. It does this by affecting the production of melanin in your skin. When you have vitiligo, your immune system attacks the cells that produce skin color (melanocytes). 

This skin disease leads to a loss of skin pigmentation. As a result, you have white or light patches of skin on your face or body. You can have segmental vitiligo or non-segmental vitiligo (NSV). 

Segmental vitiligo means the light or white patches affect a specific body part or limb. Non-segmental vitiligo is more common. This is when different areas of your body have patches of skin without normal pigmentation. 

People with NSV notice some symmetry in the location of these patches. For example, if you have a patch on your upper right thigh, you probably also have a patch on your upper left thigh. 

Why do I have vitiligo?

Researchers are still trying to understand the causes of vitiligo. They believe this autoimmune disorder can be triggered by certain factors, like environmental (external) stressors and internal (emotional) stress. 

Like other autoimmune diseases, vitiligo is linked to specific gene variations that make you more likely to develop vitiligo. But just because you have the gene variation does not mean you will get vitiligo.

If you have a thyroid disease or condition, you may have an elevated risk for vitiligo. Thyroid disease is one of the most commonly associated conditions for people with vitiligo. Having a thyroid problem can also signal that vitiligo may develop. 

Vitiligo affects people from all ethnic groups and skin colors. No one group is more or less likely to develop it. But if you’re a person of color, vitiligo is more obvious and may cause you more distress. 

Most people first develop early signs of vitiligo when they’re in their 20s, and it typically develops before you turn 40, but you can develop vitiligo at any age.

What are the ways I can manage vitiligo?

There’s no cure for vitiligo and no way to reverse pigment loss. Fortunately, different treatment options exist that help by either:

After Dr. Flood diagnoses your condition, he creates a treatment plan based on your current skin condition and aesthetic goals. With Dr. Flood’s help, you can manage vitiligo with:

Topical and oral medicines 

Oral medications might include drugs designed to control inflammation or regulate your immune system. Topical medications help suppress the immune system cells that attack your melanocytes (the cells that color your skin). 

These treatments include immune-cell-targeting corticosteroids and immunomodulators. 

UV light therapy 

Phototherapy, or narrow-band UVB light therapy, can treat the loss of skin pigmentation. This highly effective treatment uses a highly concentrated beam of light to stimulate new skin cell development below the surface of your skin.

Micropigmentation (cosmetic tattooing)

Micropigmentation is a treatment that works like a tattoo or permanent cosmetic treatment. This treatment works by blending the color of vitiligo to more closely match your surrounding skin. Dr. Flood implants small particles of natural pigment under your skin, similar to tattooing. He custom-mixes the pigments to match your skin. 

Bleaching 

Dr. Flood may recommend bleaching, also referred to as skin lightening or depigmentation. If vitiligo has affected large areas of your skin, Dr. Flood may give you a topical solution to lighten the areas of your skin not affected by vitiligo so your skin blends better. 

Skin grafts 

Dr. Flood can also address vitiligo by taking skin from unaffected areas of your body and surgically replacing the vitiligo-affected skin. This treatment typically works best for patients with segmental vitiligo, with 80-95% experiencing dramatic improvement. 

Get help managing your vitiligo by scheduling an appointment with Dr. Flood at our Capitol Hill office in Washington, DC.

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