Vitiligo is a kind of skin disorder or pigment disorder, wherein white patches or spots appear on skin. It is very prominent in dark skinned people.
Vitiligo affects melanocytes, (cells present deep within epidermis, whose main functions is to produce melanin, pigment responsible for coloration and it natural sun protection.)
Depending on how active melanocytes are, decides the color of our skin; dark skinned peoples cells are more active hence they produce lots of melanin, while light skinned people have less active cells.
Sometimes the skin stops producing melanin, which causes white spots. Its color is much lighter than the skin around it. It either spreads to rest of body rapidly or sometimes it spreads slowly.
Depending on the areas of the patches, Dermatologists have classified Vitiligo into different types:
- Focal vitiligo happens when there are just a few spots in a single area
- Generalized vitiligo is associated with many spots all over the body that tend to be symmetrical (they affect the right and left sides of the body like a mirror image). This is the most common form of the condition.
- Segmental vitiligo is characterized by spots only on one side of the body and usually nowhere else. This type of vitiligo is relatively uncommon.
- Universal Vitiligo: depigmentation on most of the body.
- Acrofacial Vitiligo: fingers and periorificial (surrounding an opening) areas.
- Mucosal Vitiligo: depigmentation of only the mucous membranes.
Although vitiligo can occur anywhere on the body, it's more likely to happen in:
- Areas that are exposed to the sun, such as the face or hands
- Skin that has folds, such as the elbows, knees, or groin
- Skin around body openings, such as the eyes, nostrils, belly button, and genital area
- Although kids of all races are affected equally, spots tend to be more visible on those with darker skin.
Sometimes children with vitiligo have other symptoms, such as premature graying of the hair or a loss of pigment on the lips, since pigment cells are found in these places, too.
What causes Vitiligo? Some think it’s an autoimmune disease, in which immune system attacks healthy cells, others feel it’s a genetic condition.
Dermatologist when consulted will try to find the cause, if it’s genetic or was the child under stress or had sunburn etc. Doctor might also suggest blood test to rule out thyroid problem or diabetes, as it might increase risk of vitiligo.
Cure for vitiligo depends from person to person. What works for 1 child may not work for other. But these are some of the precautions you can take for your child to prevent vitiligo from spreading. But these must be done after consulting dermatologist.
- Application of sunscreen while going out in sun. As the patches lose their natural function of protection from sun, they might get burned.
- Corticosteroid creams: when applied to affected skin, help re-pigment the affected area, by reducing the inflammation which caused loss of pigments. Some non-steroid creams also help by producing similar effect.
- Some say photo chemotherapy with Ultra violet A/B helps, but it has some side effects. So it should be done after consultation with your doctor.
More than the physical impact it’s the emotional and mental impact which affects the child. So it’s necessary to induce confidence in child:
- By showing love and care towards him/her.
- If we treat a condition as a “problem”, it tends to become a problem and it affects the child’s behavior.
- We must explain to child, what it is, how it is caused etc. answer all their questions and make them feel comfortable.
- We must encourage the child to go out and mix with other children.
- We must make other kids also understand that it’s not a contagious disease nor the child is weird.
More than medicines, it’s the care and understanding which helps kids overcome any situation.