White Patches on Your Skin: All About Vitiligo

White Patches on Your Skin: All About Vitiligo

An estimated 1% of the world’s population lives with vitiligo, which is a rare skin condition that causes white patches to develop anywhere on the skin. 

Vitiligo isn’t painful, life-threatening, or contagious. However, like many skin disorders, it can impact a person’s self-confidence. Learning more about vitiligo can help increase awareness and understanding of this rare condition.

Juan-Carlos Caballero, MD, specializes in all aspects of dermatological health, including rare skin disorders like vitiligo. If you have small or large white patches on your skin, here’s how Dr. Caballero can help at Warrenton Dermatology & Skin Therapy Center in Warrenton, Virginia.

What is vitiligo?

Your hair and skin color come from melanin, a chemical produced by skin cells known as melanocytes. 

When you have vitiligo, your immune system destroys your melanocytes, and they no longer make melanin. Without melanin, skin and hair in the affected area begin losing color and turn white. You can also have vitiligo in places you can’t see, such as your scalp, which causes patches of your hair to turn prematurely white or gray.

Vitiligo can vary from person to person. For example, some people can have large patches of lost color, while others can have just a few small spots. It’s also possible for smaller areas to shift and change over time as skin cells lose and regain melanin from cell regeneration.

Similarly, large patches of vitiligo can continue growing and spreading, but it’s more common for them to remain in the same place for years.

What are the signs of vitiligo?

There are several types of vitiligo. However, in most cases, the skin disorder typically begins as a few small white patches on the body before gradually spreading or growing larger over the months to come. The patches can start anywhere, but they often occur on the:

You can also develop vitiligo in your mucous membranes, more commonly known as the moist linings of your nose, mouth, genitals, and rectal areas.

While vitiligo doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort, it can increase your risk of painful sunburns on the lighter areas of your skin. Because of this, you should follow our sun safety tips to protect yourself from skin cancer.

Who gets vitiligo?

Anyone of any race or gender can develop vitiligo. However, it’s seen most frequently in people ages 10-30. Experts also believe that genetic factors could increase your chances of developing the condition, as approximately 30% of vitiligo cases run in families.

Other potential causes of developing vitiligo include:

Since a single cause doesn’t explain all vitiligo cases, a combination of factors likely trigger the skin disorder.

How is vitiligo treated?

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for this rare skin disorder. However, treatments can help create a more uniform skin tone by restoring lost pigment or eliminating the remaining color. Dr. Caballero can make personalized recommendations based on your age, the extent of your condition, the speed it’s progressing, and its impact on your life.

Common treatments for vitiligo include:

It’s also common for vitiligo to cause psychological or emotional distress. If this sounds familiar, Dr. Caballero can also suggest support groups or counselors to help.

Do you have vitiligo? Dr. Caballero can help. To learn more, call 540-212-7081 or book an appointment online with Warrenton Dermatology & Skin Therapy Center today.

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