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What is Vitiligo?

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Vitiligo is a condition which affects the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes by destroying cells that produce the body's pigment. The most obvious signs of this condition are white patches on the skin where the melanocyte cells have failed to deliver melanin. Although Vitiligo is not a serious condition many of its sufferers do experience psychological problems and depression. Researchers are still investigating methods for correct diagnosis, treatments, co-existent diseases, and psychological side effects.

Our hair, eyes, and skin are given colour by a substance called melanin. This material is constantly being broken down and replaced so it must be replenished and it is done by cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes manufacture and distribute the correct amount of melanin, but for people with vitiligo, this process gets disrupted.

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 those which it perceives to be "enemy" cells. The malfunctioning immune system continues attacking the body’s cells which in this case are 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 condition and doctors direct their treatment toward this aspect.

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 in countries throughout the world including the UK. It affects people of both sexes equally and all races. It can begin at any age though about fifty percent of people with vitiligo develop it before the age of twenty five. Most of its sufferers are not born with it though they can develop it early in childhood. In at least some people, it is the genes that they inherit which predisposes them to developing the condition.

Although there are many so called remedies and treatments targeted at Vitiligo the understanding seems to be a bit of a hit ‘n’ miss since no body really knows if the cures actually work alone or whether the condition seems to find its own way to reverse itself.

Micropigmentation can be of great help!

Advanced Paramedical procedures have been of great benefit to those who suffer with vitiligo. In many cases the pigment can be brought back by way of stimulating the melanocyte layer of the skin in the hope it will start to once again generate melanin in the patchy regions.

Should the stimulation method not be successful, an advanced technician can expertly blend the necessary skin-coloured pigments to create a pleasing 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. At Smudge-Free we offer treatments for Corrective Camouflage as well as training for the 'Advanced Technician'.

The treatment images above are of a client who suffers with vitiligo on both breasts. The Areolae have no pigmentation at all and vitiligo is also affecting the surrounding skin. So far the client has received just one treatment and will soon be attending the Smudge-Free clinic for her second visit. In all, we estimate three visits should give very satisfactory results. During the second visit we shall see how much pigment has been retained in the nipple area and implant more pigment accordingly. We shall also start to camouflage the areas around the nipples during the second session. Further pictures of treatment progress will be posted as soon as they become available so watch this space!

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