What is vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a condition which affects the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Melanin is the substance which gives colour to our hair, skin and eyes. This material is constantly being broken down and replaced so it must be replenished and this is done by cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes manufacture and distribute the correct amount of melanin, but for people with vitiligo, this process gets disrupted. The most obvious signs of this condition are white patches on the skin where the melanocyte cells have failed to deliver melanin. Scientists have found vitiligo destroys melanocytes for unknown reasons and have therefore categorised it as an auto-immune disorder because no external cause seems to be responsible.
In auto-immune disorders, the body mistakes itself for an enemy intruder and declares war on what it perceives to be “enemy” cells; in this case, the melanocyte cells. The most common symptom of vitiligo is light or white patches of skin anywhere on the body. These are commonly found on areas that receive a lot of sunlight like the face, back of the neck, forearms, hands, and feet. For the most part, the symptoms are the most serious aspect of this conditionand doctors direct their treatment toward this.
Since vitiligo seems to affect young people more than older people, doctors tend to view the psychological effects of the disease as a major issue. A person with a visible difference in skin colouring, called hypo-pigmentation, may be influenced to see their body as unhealthy, abnormal or unattractive. Vitiligo affects at least one in every hundred people all over the world. It affects people of both sexes equally and all races. It can begin at any age, although about fifty percent of people with vitiligo develop it before the age of twenty five. Most sufferers are not born with it, although it can develop it early in childhood. In some people, it is the genes they inherit which predisposes them to developing the condition.
Although there are many so called remedies and treatments aimed at vitiligo, they appear to be a bit hit and miss since nobody really knows if the cures actually work alone or whether the body realises it is attacking itself and stops, allowing the melanocytes to resume manufacturing and distributing melanin. Micropigmentation can be a great help! Advanced paramedical procedures have been of great benefit to those who suffer with vitiligo. In many cases, the melanocyte layer of the skin can be stimulated to kick-start the generation of melanin in the patchy regions once again. Should the stimulation method not be successful, an advanced technician can expertly blend skin-coloured pigments to create a camouflage to balance the affected areas with the surrounding healthy skin. This usually requires a few sessions in order to achieve satisfactory results as we need to see how the pigment has healed in the skin, how much has been retained and also to create similar characteristics to blend with the surrounding healthy skin.