Vitiligo

An Integumentary Disorder

The Patient

Paul is 38 years old. Paul was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism five years ago. He has recently noticed white patches on only one side of his body. He has also noticed premature graying of his eyebrows and eyelashes. He has been diagnosed with vitiligo.

Etiology

  • Vitiligo is a skin disorder in which the melanocytes die and stop producing melanin, the pigment that gives hair and skin color
  • The areas affected become lighter and whiter because of the lack of pigment
  • Hyperthyroidism is often linked with vitiligo. This is a disorder when the thyroid gland is overactive and makes excess amounts of thyroid hormones and T-cells. This excess of hormones usually results in increased metabolic rates and weight loss. However, in some cases, the T-cell lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, mistake the melanocytes for a pathogen and destroy them, resulting in vitiligo.
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Symptoms

  • Skin discoloration in patches
  • Premature graying and whitening of hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes
  • Occasionally, mucous membranes, such as the lining of the mouth, can be affected and discoloration can occur
Understanding Vitiligo - Causes & Theories, April 2011

Prognosis and Dealing with the Disorder

Vitiligo is not fatal, but it is not curable. It is possible to improve the symptoms with certain treatments, but the skin will never return to normal. There are certain factors that the patient should avoid to prevent flare ups of the disorder. These include stress, trauma to skin, and extended exposure to UV rays. Taking precautions, such as applying liberal amounts of sunscreen often, and covering their skin when exposed to sunlight. The most difficult part of living with vitiligo is the effect that it has on confidence, as many people feel self-conscious about their appearance. Because of this, it is important to seek guidance or support if a patient seems to be depressed or struggling with the new lifestyle.

Treatment

All of the following are types of treatment to attempt to partially restore pigmentation

  • A topical corticosteroid that controls inflammation and helps restore the pigmentation

  • Mini skin grafts of non-affected skin to replace the affected

  • Combine a drug called psoralen with light therapy (photochemotherapy) to return color to the light patches. (1976)

  • Grafting unaffected skin to replace to affected to provide melanocytes to to area. This is the most recent form of treatment and came to light in 2012

Another type of treatment is bleaching normal colored skin with a drug called Benoquin, to create an even skin tone, keeping the lighter patches from standing out as much.

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Famous Vitiligo Patients

Above is a picture of model, Winnie Harlow. She was diagnosed with vitiligo at four years old. She competed on the 21st season of America's Next Top Model and has recently become an inspiration to people who struggle with insecurity caused by the disorder. Michael Jackson also suffered from vitiligo and chose to treat it with bleach, resulting in his complexion changing color.

Further Information

For further information, either visit Vitiligo Support International at their website (https://www.vitiligosupport.org/contact.cfm) or with the information listed below.

Mail Address:
Vitiligo Support International
P.O. Box 3565
Lynchburg, VA 24503

Phone:(434) 326-5380

Works Cited


DermNet NZ." PUVA (photochemotherapy). N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. <http://www.dermnetnz.org/procedures/puva.html>.

"Diseases and Conditions: Vitiligo." MayoClinic.org. Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mayoclinic.org%2Fdiseases-conditions%2Fvitiligo%2Fbasics%2Fsymptoms%2Fcon-20032007>.

"New Surgical Techniques Hold Promise for Treating Vitiligo." New Surgical Techniques Hold Promise for Treating Vitiligo. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. <https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/new-surgical-techniques-hold-promise-for-treating-vitiligo>.

"Vitiligo Treatments." Vitiligo Treatments. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. <http://www.avrf.org/treatments-products/vitiligo-treatments.html>.

"Winnie Harlow's Changing the Face of Fashion." CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. <http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/06/fashion/winnie-harlow-interview-model-qa/>.