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Remaining Healthy and Confident With Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a chronic disorder that causes patches of skin to lose their pigmentation. Many people with vitiligo will have noticeable white pigments (despite their original skin tone) that seem to have no pattern in shape or size. 

Though vitiligo may be different and hard to adjust to when diagnosed, it is a natural disorder that many people from all ethnicities experience. There is no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed by vitiligo symptoms. 

What Is Vitiligo? 

Vitiligo is represented by a change in the color of a person’s skin, often in irregular shaped patches or patterns on one’s body. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Vitiligo may be an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune cells of a person are attacking the pigmentation of the skin. 

Vitiligo is also believed to be genetic or passed down in families. When a person finds out they have vitiligo, there is a 25% to 50% chance someone in their family has it, and a 6% chance their sibling has vitiligo (NIH). Despite this, researchers have not confirmed directly what causes this condition or where it comes from. There are several factors that can onset vitiligo, and many genes that are thought to be required were not present in some cases. 

Symptoms of Vitiligo

Symptoms of vitiligo may begin at any stage of life. It can be subtle for a while until larger patches of skin lose their pigmentation. Symptoms of vitiligo include white circles around moles on the body. Some people with vitiligo will notice small white spots on their body, especially their face or neck. Many will also notice white patches of hair on their head or chests, caused by a white pigmentation under the hair. 

The most noticeable symptom of vitiligo is the large, irregular white patches that will grow and develop over the body. Much of the time, vitiligo is hard to hide without long sleeves, pants, and copious amounts of makeup. There is no reason to hide vitiligo, as it is not dangerous. There are many, however, who find symptoms embarrassing or sad, especially as they watch their symptoms become more prominent. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

Vitiligo is tested by a doctor in several different ways. A doctor may shine a blacklight on a person’s skin to look for pigmentation differences. They may also check a patient’s eyes, test their blood, and even take a small skin sample to test. 

Once a patient is diagnosed, their treatment options are limited. Unfortunately, vitiligo cannot be cured, and it may last a lifetime. The goal of treatment is to slow or stop the disease where it is at. Some people find success getting patches of skin to regain pigmentation. Treatment does not work for every patient, and though treatment may work for some, others may notice no progress and new or enlarged patches losing pigmentation. Treatments include:

  • Medications or medicated skin cream
  • Light therapy to help recover color in the skin
  • Removal of color from dark areas to help balance out light areas. This can be done through skin pigment treatment and staying out of the sun. This is really only done if around 50% of your body has been affected by vitiligo. 
  • Some people get surgeries if other treatments do not work, but this is not often done, as the surgery cannot reverse vitiligo and new pigments may occur. 

How to Live With Vitiligo

Many people report that the more stressed they are, the more white patches seem to appear. Stress-reducing activities are important with vitiligo, along with other tips from the National Institutes of Health for living with vitiligo:

  • Use sunscreen and clothes to protect your skin from the sun if you are trying to reduce the color difference. 
  • Apply self-tanning lotion to white patches of skin to even out the difference in pigmentation. 
  • Talk to your doctor often about treatment for vitiligo and what new developments have been made. 
  • Talk to your family about any potential history of vitiligo. 
  • Find a vitiligo support group.
  • If you are struggling with your diagnosis, reach out to friends and family for support. You may even consider therapy as you cope with your diagnosis and determine how you want to approach your treatment. 
  • Accept vitiligo, and wear it with pride. 

Vitiligo is a huge change that can send you through stages of grief from the loss of your “normal” skin, but vitiligo is natural, normal, and nothing to be ashamed of. Many celebrities and influencers are normalizing vitiligo for society, and you can be part of the movement, too. 

Living with vitiligo isn’t easy, and the significant change that comes with a vitiligo diagnosis can be hard to take. If you’re someone who struggles with addiction or a major feeling of loss with vitiligo, know that you’re not alone and there is help for you. If your addiction issues or mental health are feeling out of control, call us at RECO Intensive. At RECO Intensive, we understand that diagnoses that change your life can be difficult to bear and that addiction issues can stem from difficult news and life changes. Our Florida facilities are fully equipped to help treat your addiction and learn strategies to cope with vitiligo. Our professional staff and experienced alumni can help you create a treatment plan that is specifically catered to your needs and expectations. We also offer several types of therapies, including individual therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and adventure therapy. Call RECO Intensive at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

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