Vitiligo

At vitiligo, you get white spots on the skin, and sometimes even white hairs. This is because there is no pigment. Vitiligo can be found in single or multiple places on the body. Vitiligo does not infect.

Vitiligo is a so-called autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks the body’s own cells. The disease usually does not go over but it is harmless.

Symptoms of vitiligo

Vitiligo begins with one or more centimeter-wide white or light spots, which are often round or oval. The spots are often well delimited against the skin all around. 

Gradually, more spots may appear, both in the same area and elsewhere on the body. The spots can grow in size to form larger areas without pigment. Occasionally, the hairs also become colored. It can appear as lighter spots in the beard or hair.

The spots are more visible on dark skin and when the skin becomes tanned.

Vitiligo can come anywhere on the body, but common places are on the face, hands and feet, armpits and abdomen.

When and where should I seek care?

If you think you have vitiligo, contact a health care provider. Wait until it becomes every day if it’s a weekend. You can contact many receptions by logging in.

What can I do for myself?

The white spots are more visible if the skin turns brown, which is why it is good to protect the skin from the sun.

To protect your skin:

  • Use sunscreen with a high sun protection factor.
  • Wear covering clothing.
  • Avoid being in the sun in the middle of the day when the sun is at its strongest.

The spots can get red in the sun and it can cause discomfort much like when you burn in the sun. However, the risk of malignant melanoma does not increase because melanoma comes from the pigment-forming cells that are lacking in these areas.

Surveys

The doctor at the health center can sometimes see that it is vitiligo just by looking at the skin.

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish vitiligo from other skin diseases, such as fungal infection. Then a skin test may be needed to find out what it is. Sometimes the doctor at the health center takes the skin test, but otherwise, you get a referral to a dermatologist.

You can also get a referral to a dermatologist if the doctor at the health center is unsure of the diagnosis, or if you have vitiligo that rapidly deteriorates.

At a skin clinic, the doctor sometimes uses a special UV lamp to see how much the spots have spread.

Treatment of vitiligo

There are various ways to treat vitiligo, but treatment only provides a small or moderate effect. All types of treatments of vitiligo work best when the stains are new. Some areas are difficult to treat, such as the hands.

Vitiligo treatment often takes several months or longer. Treatment often needs to be repeated if the stains come back or if you get new ones.

Not all regions and clinics offer the same treatment. Sometimes referred to as private skin clinics, and then you have to pay for the treatment yourself.

Cortisone

A common treatment is to lubricate the stains with cream or ointment that contains strong cortisone.

Cortisone is a drug that counteracts inflammation. Cortisone has some side effects, such as the skin may become thinner and brittle and small blood vessels may form in the skin where you lubricate.

Medicines that affect the immune system

Another type of drug that can be used is those containing the active substances tacrolimus or pimecrolimus. They are so-called immunomodulatory drugs that affect the immune system. They counteract inflammation without containing cortisone. 

Tacrolimus is available as ointment and pimecrolimus as a cream. An ointment is more oily than cream.

Sometimes vitiligo can be treated with tablets that affect the immune system.

Light therapy

Sometimes vitiligo is treated with light therapy, but this is not so common. The effect of light therapy is different from person to person and is often transient. The effect can also be different on different body parts. Light treatment can cause bright areas to regain their pigment and become darker. But usually, the skin around it also gets darker and then the spots appear anyway. The skin can get spotted pigmentation.

What does vitiligo depend on?

Vitiligo is a so-called autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks the body’s own cells. Some who have vitiligo also have some other autoimmune disease. For example, it can be diabetes, SLE or thyroid disorders.

There are pigment cells in the skin, called melanocytes. These cells give the skin its color. The white spots that occur during vitiligo are due to the fact that the pigment cells there have been destroyed.

Vitiligo usually does not go over and it is available in two variants. At one, spots appear in individual places on the body. In the other, pigments are lacking in many areas, usually in about the same places on both sides of the body. The patches spread out periodically for an extended period of time, up to several years. Thereafter, the disease can calm down and remain unchanged for many years. In some, it can then deteriorate again. Often, there is a deterioration in stress or any other stress.

Usually, the disease begins at the age of twenty, but it can come at any age. The disease is to some extent hereditary.

Living with vitiligo

It can help if you accept that you have the disease yourself. Then it can be easier to respond to the looks and questions of others. You can tell people they can ask if you want it, or tell yourself that it is harmless.

It’s good to tell your family and friends about the disease and how you’re feeling.

Influence and participate in your care

You can seek care at any medical center or open specialist clinic you want throughout the country. Sometimes a referral to the open specialized care is required.

You should understand the information

In order for you to be involved in your care and treatment, it is important that you  understand the information you receive  from the healthcare staff. Ask questions if you don’t understand. For example, you should receive information about treatment options and  how long you may have to wait for care and treatment .

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