What you never knew about VITILIGO! 

Lets talk about Vitiligo. 

Vitiligo, pronounced (vit-ih-LIE-go) is a disease that causes the loss of skin color in blotches. The extent and rate of color loss from vitiligo is unpredictable. It can affect the skin on any part of the body. It may also affect hair and the inside of the mouth.

Normally, the color of hair and skin is determined by melanin. Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin (Called Melanocytes) are destructed or stop functioning. It is the melanin which gives skin its color and protects it from the sun's UV rays, making people with vitiligo very sensitive to light. Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it is more noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is NOT life-threatening or contagious. Vitiligo can start at any age, but often appears before age 20.

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The main sign of vitiligo is a gradual patchy loss of skin color. Usually, the discoloration first shows on sun-exposed areas, such as the hands, feet, arms, face and lips. Could be followed by premature whitening of the hair on the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard, and also loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of your mouth and nose known as mucous membranes. 

As aforementioned, Vitiligo occurs when the melanocytes die or stop producing melanin. The exact reason why the cells fail or die is not very well known, but it may be related to a disorder in which your immune system attacks and destroys the melanocytes in the skin, could be hereditary, or could be triggered by sunburn, stress or exposure to industrial chemicals. 

Many treatments are available to help restore skin or even out skin tone, but the results vary from person to person and are unpredictable. The Treatments in question may restore the affected skin, or lessen the damaging effects of direct sunlight exposure, but do not prevent the loss of skin color. No drug can stop the process of vitiligo — the loss of pigment cells (melanocytes). But some drugs, used alone or with light therapy, can help restore some skin tone.

Creams that control inflammation such as corticosteroids may be used. Applying a corticosteroid cream to affected skin may help return color, particularly if you start using it early in the disease.

Medications that affect the immune system. Ointments containing Tacrolimus which is a calcineurin inhibitor may be effective for people with small areas of depigmentation, especially on the face and neck. However, there is a possible link between the use of  these drugs and lymphoma and skin cancer. 

Limited studies show that the herb Ginkgo biloba may return skin color in people with vitiligo. Other small studies show that alpha-lipoic acid, folic acid, vitamin C and vitamin B-12 plus phototherapy may restore skin color for some people.
Light therapy, and skin grafting may also be employed.
However, as has already been mentioned, these interventions are to manage the condition, but no drug can completely stop the process. 

The main problem facing vitiligo sufferers is the STIGMA that they are subjected to, sometimes even to the extent of denying them seats on public transport, denial of job opportunities, refusing to sell to them, refusing to talk to, touch or associate with them for fear of being "infected" etc. It is very appalling, and must stop.
The disease IS NOT contagious, and CANNOT spread from one person to another. Let us take note and refrain from the stigmatization. 


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