Whenever a pimple shows up or acne develops, we are often made to take the blame for it. Maybe you just didn’t keep your skin clean enough or didn’t stick to your skin care routine properly. However, there are certain conditions over which we don’t have control and is quite out of our own hands.
Leucoderma, also known as Vitiligo is one such skin condition. This is a skin disease where the melanin-producing cells progressively face destruction (1). It leads to a lack of pigmentation on patches of skin anywhere on the body. This is one of the extreme forms of uneven pigmentation wherein melanocytes are targeted and killed. Melanocytes are specialized skin cells that exist in the epidermis and produce the protective pigment that we call melanin (2).
One of its reasons for being an infamous skin condition is that, although it does not have any record of harmful to health, it has been on the forefront of skin conditions to cause psychological and mental stress.
Leucoderma is termed to be an autoimmune disease (3), meaning that the immune system mistakenly attacks these cells considering them to be harmful to the body. This is one of the main causes for the skin condition.
The fear of the unknown sometimes leads people to make wild assumptions. One such assumption people have been known to make about vitiligo is that it could be contagious (4). This is completely false.
Sometimes, our genes are to blame, since leucoderma is known to be a condition that can be passed down in a family. Hence chances of it being hereditary are high. And certain other autoimmune diseases like hyperthyroidism have been known to increase the possible occurrence of vitiligo (5).
On the other hand, people working in industries with high exposure to chemicals like phenol, and those getting exposed to extreme sunlight may find that these are triggers to the condition.
Looking out for signs of leucoderma is always advised, especially if it is known to run through your family. It is often easily identifiable and when addressed at a very early stage, chances that you get to contain it to a great degree are quite high.
The first and main signs of leucoderma or vitiligo are small white or lighter patches of skin that may appear anywhere on the body. The particular zones, which usually fall prey to this are folds in the skin such as elbows, fingers, hands, and armpits. Or, if some part of the skin had been previously subject to sun damage or exposure to harmful substances, then they become more vulnerable to the condition. The appearance of grey hair takes an early toll when you are vulnerable to leucoderma so keeping an eye out for that is a safe way to monitor any onslaught of the condition.
Nevertheless, one of the drawbacks of dealing with this skin condition is that there are not particular ways to predict it’s spreading. The degree of spreading appears to differ from person to person. Although, there have been recent assessments which show a slight correlation between increased spreading and physical or emotional stress (6).
Noticing any one of these symptoms should have you looking for dermatologists near you. This is because an only expert in the field can conduct an early diagnosis, and this may even involve blood tests and even biopsies of the affected region.
Although the first thing patients are always warned of vitiligo is that of its permanence, great strides have been made in the different forms of treatments that may help contain it and even reduce white patches from standing out on the skin.
Majority of these treatments have come about because of the psychological trauma and stress that patients undergo when having to live everyday life, with as obvious a skin condition as vitiligo. Choosing a suitable treatment method for you depends on certain factors; the number of patches that currently exist, how far along they are in severity and your own preference of method are some of them.
Amongst the many, one of the primary treatments that experts turn to is phototherapy and application of sunscreen. Although it does not completely re-pigment the skin, exposure to ultraviolet B or UV-A rays has been known to help with leucoderma (7). It takes time for the result to show, over a period of 6 to 12 months depending on how far along the condition is.
A topical form of treatment includes the use of corticosteroids and other ointments (8), which either alter the structure of the skin or simply help camouflage the skin on the surface. This last resort may be along the lines of cosmetic products. These tend to have faster results, which patients look for at times.
For forms of the conditions which have progressed too far, depigmentation treatments may be more useful. This is achieved usually with a combination of strong topical creams with ingredients like hydroquinone and mequinol (9). In extreme cases, dermatologists even recommend drugs that influence the immune system. Examples of these include a substance called “calcineurin inhibitors”, but these are far more controversial and can only be administered post consultation with dermatologists.
Regardless of the treatment taken, leucoderma is a permanent skin condition that can only be restricted to a certain degree. However, it is nothing to be feeling bad about and not worth the psychological stress that patients often go through.
There is an increasing number of organizations and campaigns that help people with the condition not only cope with it but also celebrate it as a unique characteristic and accepting it as a part of you. So take that visit to a dermatologist to address the skin condition, but never feel like it makes you any lesser because of it.
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