If the sudden appearance of white spots on your skin has sent you down the rabbit hole of internet doctors and self-diagnoses, you’re not alone. Medical websites are a gift in some ways and a curse in others. So before you panic at the onset of discoloration, explore all the possible explanations. One of them is vitiligo, which is surprisingly common, and — when correctly diagnosed and treated — physically innocuous.
What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that causes the skin to lose pigment, resulting in loss of skin color. It occurs when the cells responsible for melanin production in the body (melanocytes) are unable to function. Typically, it appears as symmetric white patches on the body — most commonly on the face, arms, feet, and hands due to increased exposure to the sun. Anyone can have Vitiligo, but it is typically diagnosed during childhood and young adulthood.
What Are the Symptoms of Vitiligo?
Vitiligo’s primary symptom is the appearance of lightened skin patches that do not match the skin on the rest of your body. Additional symptoms include the development of light patches appearing inside the nose and/or mouth, and the hair on the head, body, and eyelashes turning prematurely white or gray. In some cases, Vitiligo can lighten eye color and impact vision. If melanocytes in the ears are attacked, it can also cause hearing loss. (Both vision and hearing loss are rare.)
Though Vitiligo is not life-threatening, it can adversely affect one’s confidence. Many of those who have Vitiligo report feeling self-conscious or anxious about their condition and its alteration of their appearance. Others embrace Vitiligo as just one of several attributes that contribute to their whole self. Whichever camp you fall into — and we hope it’s the latter — finding clothes, beauty products, and self-care rituals that make you feel comfortable and happy in your skin is essential. (This is true for everyone, Vitiligo or not.) Because, truly — our differences are what make us… well, us.
Is There a Cure for Vitiligo?
While there’s no cure for Vitiligo, there are several ways to protect light skin from sun damage and prevent the further spread of light patches. First and foremost, a powerful SPF is vital. Following that, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also important. Why? Because it strengthens your immune system. Fortify your skin by reducing stress levels, staying active, and eating a balanced diet. For Vitiligo treatments, ask your doctor about topical creams and steroids.