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Vitiligo: 7 Question Answered

Vitiligo sufferers number around 50 million according to some estimates, with the majority developing the condition before they reach middle age

As this condition can be distressing it is good to get a basic education about it so you can at least be of support and offer practical help in some cases.

1. Just exactly what is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder which causes white patches of skin to develop on various parts of the body. Mucous membranes found inside the mouth, nose, and genital areas are destroyed. Often hair that grows in areas affected by Vitiligo turns white also.

Vitiligo is NOT contagious!

2. How is Vitiligo most easily recognized?

Often recognizable patterns develop in the white patches:

The Focal Pattern is where blotches of white skin appear in small limited areas

The Segmental Pattern is where patches of white skin appear on one side of the body only

The Generalized Pattern is where the areas of pigmentation disorder appear on many and various parts of the body

Parts of the body often affected are around the mouth, eyes and nose, as well as the underarms and also the genital areas.

3. Who are most likely to be affected by Vitiligo?

There is no delineation according to gender or even race. One common factor though is that Vitiligo sufferers often have an auto-immune disease where an individual's immune system works against their own body organs.

Heredity can also be a factor although the majority of children of parents with the condition are not affected.

4. A doctor will need to carry out various tests in order to diagnose Vitiligo?

A small biopsy and the giving of a blood sample may be included. The doctor may also delve into a person's medical and family history to see if there are other cases of auto-immune disease.

5. How fast does Vitiligo spread to other parts of the body?

This is a matter each individual must consider as to what is best for them. In some Vitiligo sufferers the condition remains isolated to just a few areas. Other sufferers report that the white patches spread at various rates. Reports indicate in the majority of cases the blotches will progressively spread.

6. Are there any other effects from Vitiligo?

Many persons with Vitiligo suffer varying degrees of emotional stress and depression. In the case of young persons especially the effect can be psychologically devastating due to concerns on how they will be accepted by their peers.

The effects on a person when Vitiligo spreads to visible parts of the body can be traumatic. The person may not want to socialize and as a result they can become withdrawn.

In view of this, family and friends need to offer strong emotional support, being willing to listen and empathize. There are various support groups and organizations available which do an excellent job.

7. What solutions are available for Vitiligo sufferers?

Concealing cosmetics can be used to mask the skin contrast.

Among the medical and surgical options currently available are the use of steroids, skin grafting and implanting pigment into the skin through the use of tattoos. Obviously research about Vitiligo never stops so it is good to check with your medical professional to find out the latest developments and treatment options.

In conclusion, it must be recognized that Vitiligo can cause acute distress to those with the condition even though it is not contagious. The emotional and psychological effects however can be contained and minimized through the understanding and support of family, friends and acquaintances.

About the Author

As the emotioinal and psychological effects of Vitiligo can be devastating it can be important to get help. This link provides essential information:


"I have suffered with vitiligo for several years. Every doctor I visited essentially said that there wasn't much that could be done. I was 'surfing the internet' and came across your website. The vitiligo page looked very interesting so I made an appointment for a consultation. You were informative and honest, indicating that, using a combination of narrow-band UVB phototherapy and other topical treatments, about 75% of patients see improvement. Well, I was in the lucky group who improved! After just 12 light treatments I started seeing color return and after 38 treatments, my condition had almost completely resolved! It's like a mini-miracle! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dr. Crutchfield". - Donna P. St. Paul.

Charles E. Crutchfield III, M.D. is a graduate of the Mayo Clinic Medical School. Dr. Crutchfield is a Board Certified Dermatologist and Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Dr. Crutchfield conducts active psoriasis research (he has a Master's Degree in Molecular Biology) and has recently received a United States Patent on one his psoriasis treatment medications. Dr. Crutchfield lectures locally and nationally on the treatment of psoriasis. When other medical students, dermatology residents and physicians learn about psoriasis, they are often learning it from Dr. Crutchfield. Dr. Crutchfield also treats many physicians and nurses with psoriasis. When other Twin Cities' healthcare providers need psoriasis treatment, they often choose Dr. Crutchfield. We are happy to share that Dr. Crutchfield is recognized in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine "Top Doctor" issue for 2004-2005. Now that you know a little bit about Dr. Crutchfield we invite you to take a look at our results. Below are pictures of just a few of the many happy patients we have treated at Crutchfield Dermatology.

Vitiligo (vit-ill-EYE-go) is a pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) in the skin, the mucous membranes (tissues that line the inside of the mouth and nose and genital and rectal areas), and the retina (inner layer of the eyeball) are destroyed. As a result, white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body. The hair that grows in areas affected by vitiligo usually turns white.

The cause of vitiligo is not known, but doctors and researchers have several different theories. One theory is that people develop antibodies that destroy the melanocytes in their own bodies. Another theory is that melanocytes destroy themselves. Finally, some people have reported that a single event such as sunburn or emotional distress triggered vitiligo; however, these events have not been scientifically proven to cause vitiligo.

About 1 to 2 percent of the world's population, or 40 to 50 million people, have vitiligo. In the United States, 2 to 5 million people have the disorder. Ninety-five percent of people who have vitiligo develop it before their 40th birthday. The disorder affects individuals of all ethnic origins and both sexes. Loss of pigment most commonly is noted first on the hands, feet, arms, face or lips. Frequently this disease is progressive.

The primary goal of therapy is to restore the skin's color by restoring melanocytes to the skin. Repigmentation of the skin with melanocytes allows the skin to regain its normal immune/inflammatory functions and improves the appearance of those suffering from this disease.

At Crutchfield Dermatology we take a great deal of pride in our very effective vitiligo treatments. Dr. Crutchfield is a board certified dermatologist, graduate of the Mayo Clinic Medical School (1994) and a Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota, who has extensive training in the treatment of vitiligo including topical medications and phototherapeutic measures (narrow band-UVB).

At Crutchfield Dermatology, we also have the most active phototherapy center for the treatment of vitiligo in the state of Minnesota, employing both full body narrow band-UVB National Biological Corporation units.

Dr. Crutchfield will carefully evaluate your condition and design a custom vitiligo treatment program that is just right for you.. Most of our patients see improvement in 1-2 months after beginning therapy.

For additional helpful information on this topic Dr. Crutchfield recommends these helpful links:

Vitiligo FAQs
National Vitiligo Foundation

Vitiligo Photo Gallery
Patient Testimonial

Thanks so much for the info on Vitiligo in your newsletter. My son has been going to light therapy treatments 3 x/week for close to a year and a half. It's amazing what a difference it has made both physically and emotionally for him. I appreciate the info your newsletter provides.

Ronna C.
St. Paul

Crutchfield Dermatology

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