What Happens if Vitiligo is Left Untreated?
Vitiligo is a chronic medical condition that causes areas of the skin to lose color. If left untreated, it may spread to other skin areas. In rare cases, some patches may go away or decrease in size. Although vitiligo is neither dangerous nor painful, people with the condition may feel distressed by their skin's appearance.
What are the symptoms of vitiligo?
In most cases, vitiligo symptoms manifest during early adulthood, but they can appear in childhood or in senior years. The white areas of skin generally have distinct edges and without inflammation. The patches can develop in areas where the skin has been damaged, such as a burn or cut.
White hairs can occur in an area of vitiligo, and head and facial hair might start to grey earlier than normal in affected areas. Vitiligo can progress to other parts of the body, especially during times of distress, illness, pregnancy, or stress.
Most people with vitiligo have good health. However, some people with the condition may also have autoimmune conditions such as an overactive thyroid (Graves’ disease) or an underactive thyroid (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis).
What are the different types of vitiligo?
There are 2 main types of vitiligo: non-segmental and segmental vitiligo. In rare cases, it is possible for vitiligo to affect your whole body. This is known as complete or universal vitiligo.
Can you prevent vitiligo?
There is currently no way to prevent vitiligo. If you see light-colored spots or patches on your skin, see a board-certified dermatologist, who is capable of diagnosing whether you have vitiligo or another medical condition.
There are many other skin diseases that can cause skin lightening, which can be treated. If you have vitiligo, the sooner you start treatment, the more effective it tends to be. If left untreated for years, vitiligo may be difficult to manage.
Recent studies into the genetics of vitiligo revealed that versions of genes that increase the risk for vitiligo simultaneously decrease the risk for melanoma, and vice-versa. This result is plausible because vitiligo occurs when the immune system kills normal melanocytes in the skin, resulting in white spots that lack pigment.
Therefore, if vitiligo patients have an overactive immune system that kills normal melanocytes, it makes sense that they are able to clear the abnormal melanocytes of melanoma as well. There are a few reports of patients with widespread melanoma and with vitiligo that become spontaneously cured of their disease.
What are the complications of vitiligo?
Vitiligo can sometimes cause other problems. Because of a lack of melanin, your skin will be more vulnerable to the effects of the sun. Make sure you use a strong sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
Vitiligo may also be associated with problems with the eyes and hearing, such as inflammation of the iris (iritis) and partial loss of hearing (hypoacusis).
Problems with confidence and self-esteem are also common in people with vitiligo, especially if it affects areas of the skin that are often exposed.
How to treat vitiligo?
More treatments are now available to restore lost skin color. New medications, improved light treatments, and advances in surgery are giving patients better results.
How to cope with vitiligo?
When you have vitiligo, you may feel depressed or upset with the change in your appearance. It is important to know that there are several things you can do to cope with this skin disorder.
Find a dermatologist who knows how to manage vitiligo. The dermatologist should also be able to provide emotional support, as vitiligo can have psychological consequences.
Learn as much as you can about your disorder and the treatment options. This can help you make decisions about the treatment that will best work for you.
Talk with other people who have vitiligo. A vitiligo support group can help you cope with the condition.