Vitiligo is loss of natural skin color, and it can affect any area of the body. The skin may lighten, appear pink or turn white. Loss of pigment is relatively rare, affecting up to 5 million people in the United States.
While vitiligo can appear at any age, the average age of onset is 25. Patches of missing pigment warrants evaluation by skin specialist Yvonne C. Hines, MD at Hines Dermatology in Attleboro, Massachusetts.
If you suspect you may have vitiligo, it’s wise to learn about the common signs so you can discuss it with Dr. Hines.
What is vitiligo?
The range of human skin color ranges widely, of course. Your individual skin pigmentation is the result of your genetic makeup. Special skin cells in the skin called melanocytes produce melanin, and your genes determine how much melanin your skin produces.
Vitiligo causes loss of pigment. It typically occurs in patches on the face, neck, hands, scalp, and around the mouth.
What causes vitiligo?
The strongest evidence points to vitiligo as an autoimmune disorder. It develops when the immune system mistakenly attacks cells that produce pigment.
Individuals with vitiligo tend to have at least one other autoimmune disorder such as Type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disorder, and systemic lupus erythematosus. There are some common indications of vitiligo:
Areas that lack skin color
Loss of skin pigment is a telltale sign of vitiligo. The shape of patches and area of the body affected can vary widely. Segmental vitiligo usually affects one side of the body, appearing in an asymmetrical pattern.
On the other hand, non-segmental — the most common type of vitiligo — affects both sides of the body and is more symmetrical in appearance.
Loss of hair color
If your hair turns white well before what seems appropriate for your age, it’s possible that you have vitiligo. If you suddenly lose pigment in your hair, eyelashes, or eyebrows, it’s wise to discuss this unexpected change with Dr. Hines.
Change in eye color
Melanin production is responsible for eye color. The amount and quality of the melanin in the iris determines and maintains your individual eye color. It may surprise you to know that eye color can change. Some changes occur naturally with age.
It is natural for eye color to fade or darken slightly as you get older. However, if you notice an abrupt or significant loss of eye color, it’s another indication that you need to see Dr. Hines. Loss of eye color may indicate an underlying condition such as vitiligo.
White patches inside the mouth
Vitiligo can affect the mucous membranes. Instead of appearing pink, the insides of your mouth may have white patches. These patches are more visible in people who have darker skin.
A thorough evaluation from Dr. Hines is necessary to determine the cause of the white patches inside your mouth because other conditions could also cause this symptom.
While there is no cure for vitiligo, Dr. Hines offers the latest treatment for skin disorders from common to complex. Vitiligo is not life-threatening, but patients with vitiligo often tell of experiencing stress, anxiety, and an impact on their self-esteem. Treatment can help restore your quality of life.
Patients with vitiligo receive the highest-quality of care at Hines Dermatology. After a comprehensive evaluation, Dr. Hines discusses appropriate treatment options.
Your treatment plan may involve light therapy, medication to suppress the immune system, depigmentation to even out skin color, or topical medication.
For more information on evaluation and treatment of vitiligo, contact our Attleboro, Massachusetts, office at 508-222-1976 or book online to schedule an appointment. Another option is to send a message to Dr. Hines and the team here on our website.