Vitiligo: Understanding the Symptoms and Causes

by | Jul 5, 2022

Vitiligo is a skin condition that can cause your skin to lose its colour. Smoother white areas (called patches if they are 5mm or larger and macules if they are less than 5mm) will appear on someone’s skin. If someone has vitiligo on a place that is populated by hair, then the hair on their body might also start turning white. Vitiligo occurs when melanocytes (skin cells that effectively produce melanin) are obliterated by the immune system of the body.

 In what way does vitiligo progress?

Vitiligo tends to begin with a few smaller white patches on the skin that might gradually spread over the whole body during the course of numerous months. It begins on the forearms, face, hands, and feet but can then develop on any given part of your body, including mucous membranes (lining of the nose, mouth, rectal area, genitals), the inner ears and eyes.

Sometimes these larger patches will continue to spread and widen, but typically they can stay in the same exact area for many years. Location of small macules can shift and change over time, since certain areas of skin regain and lose their pigments consistently.

What are the differing types of vitiligo?

Generalised – The most common forms, which happens when macules begin to appear in various positions all over the body

Segmental – Restricted to only one area or side of the body, such as face or hands

Mucosal – Affects the mucous membranes of the genitals and/or mouth

Focal – A rare form in which the macules are situated in a smaller area and do not spread in a particular pattern within 1 or 2 years

Trichome – Means that there is a colourless or white centre, then another area of light pigmentation, and then another area of normally coloured skin

Universal – A rare form in which more than 80% of the body’s skin lacks pigmentation

What can cause vitiligo?

Autoimmune disorders – An affected individual’s immune system might develop certain antibodies that obliterate melanocytes

Genetics – There are certain genetic factors that might increase the chance of someone getting vitiligo. 30% of vitiligo causation factors run in families.

Neurogenic reasons – A given substance that is toxic to certain melanocytes might be released at nerve endings within the skin

Self-destruction – Defects in the melanocytes can cause them to self-destruct

Treatment of vitiligo

UVB light phototherapy penetrates the skin and slows the growth of the affected skin cells. By doing this on a regular basis (3/4 times a week) and under this medically certified equipment we provide, the skin will heal over a period of time, usually between 6-8 weeks.

These rays produced are responsible for burning and tanning and help reduce inflammation in the skin. The skin is only exposed to UVB light wavelengths between 311 and 313 nanometres. The idea is that limiting the light spectrum in this way reduces the risk of potential side effects.

When UVB light hits your skin, your immune system makes fewer cytokines, which in-turn decreases the growing rate of skin cells and therefore reduces skin conditions appearing. This means that even common conditions such as inflamed, dry, or irritated skin can be helped through our Narrowband technology. Dermatologists and medical professionals worldwide highly recommend UVB light therapy to tackle skin conditions.

Here at Skin Matters Bristol, we offer highly effective, UVB light therapy for a number of skin conditions, including Psoriasis, Vitiligo, Pityriasis Rosea and Atopic Eczema. We offer a wide range of UVB narrowband phototherapy units, all of which we can deliver across the whole of the UK. Find out more at our website here, where you can find all the relevant information you need on a variety of conditions.