Vitiligo is a skin condition in which a person’s skin first gets de-pigmented. That is, one can see white patches or macules on the skin. This disease can either spread to the person’s entire body or be localized to a certain area only. Vitiligo is painless and non-communicable. Also, there is no permanent treatment of vitiligo. One percent of the population across the globe has vitiligo.
One of the very crucial things about treating and controlling vitiligo is early Vitiligo diagnosis. With an early diagnosis of vitiligo first spot, one can plan their treatment and prepare themselves beforehand.
What are the early signs of vitiligo?
The main reason behind vitiligo is still unknown to doctors and experts. But, many believe that vitiligo is connected to an autoimmune condition. The symptoms and signs of vitiligo vary from person to person. Also, vitiligo is seen most commonly in people with darker skin tones than lighter skin tones.
One person may not experience similar signs of vitiligo as the other. In addition, people with different types of vitiligo will have different symptoms. Also, there is no particular age before or after which vitiligo may start appearing on the body. All this makes tracking the early signs of vitiligo quite difficult.
However, there are a few signs that show the onset of vitiligo. These signs can be small and insignificant in the beginning. But, in most people, they spread pretty quickly.
Here are the early signs of vitiligo that is seen in most patients:
- Small patches of de-pigmentation near the orifices like nose, mouth, and genitals.
- Small areas of hands, arms, feet, legs can get discolored.
- Small patches of de-pigmented skin anywhere on the body.
- Loss of color and white patches on the mucosa membrane that is inside the mouth and nose.
- The color of the eyes made starts to fade and become lighter than the original color.
- The hair color may start fading and become white or grey. The vitiligo affects hair on the head, eyelashes, facial hair, and eyelashes.
- Many people tend to face thyroid problems at the onset of vitiligo. The malfunctioning thyroid gland can be an early sign of vitiligo.
What does vitiligo look like when it first starts?
Many people tend to get scared when they see any certain spot on their skin. They always think of the worst that they have vitiligo. It is legit to get scared, as there is no clarity on how the vitiligo spot comes for the first time. Also, there is no physical sensation that can give a warning sign. Therefore, the only way to keep a check on one’s skin is by looking for any white or discolored spot.
Vitiligo is a de-pigmentation of the skin. This is because the cells that produced pigment called melanin, the melanocytes stoops producing pigment in the affected area. This leads to discoloration or loss of pigment of the skin.
When the first vitiligo spots come, it looks like a small patch of discolored skin. In most cases, the area of the discolored skin is too small and almost like a spec. in the beginning, the spot seems slightly lighter than the normal complexion. But, with time, the spot tends to get whiter and paler. Most of the time, the paling of the skin after getting the first spot is quite fast.
In certain cases, the person may feel that the spot is itchy and inflamed as well. But this is not a common occurrence. Also, in light-skinned people, the spots will be light and not so prominent. But in dark-skinned people, the faded regions to be prominent. Also, in many people, the spots tend to look slightly pink rather than being completely white.
Does vitiligo start suddenly?
This is one of the most questions asked by many people. Well, the answer is yes!
To date, doctors have not found any warning signs that may tell a person why the upcoming onset of vitiligo. Thus, one can say that vitiligo does start suddenly without any warning.
Usually, it depends on what type of vitiligo one has, which decides where the first spot comes from. For those who have acrofacial, focal, and segmental vitiligo, first spots are seen on the face, one body part, and one side of the body.
In generalized and universal vitiligo, the early signs can be seen in any random part of the body.
In some people, pre vitiligo onset, one may face thyroid issues which can be a warning. However, not every time one has a thyroid issue, it tends to end up in vitiligo.
Early vitiligo spots- Does vitiligo starts as small dots?
Yes, vitiligo starts as small patches and dots. For example, one may see a random white patch of early vitiligo on the lips or one arm, or anywhere on the body. These dots and patches are called macules. In most cases, one can see that the onset of vitiligo is through a very small random patch of discolored skin. They appear on hands, arms, feet, mucosal membrane, legs, etc. small dot-like macules are the early sign of the start of vitiligo in 90 percent of vitiligo patients.
Only 10 percent of the patients tend to see discolored hair that turns grey and white. And some see discolored eyelashes, eyebrows, and beard. And in some rare cases, the very early sign of vitiligo may be a discolored retina. One thing to keep in mind is that a discolored retina does not mean loss of eyesight. People with discolored retinas can see just like before.
Note: one should be careful that at times discolored skin and white patches may not be vitiligo. White patches may happen due to other medical issues like tinea versicolor, chemical leukoderma, pityriasis alba, and albinism.
What triggers vitiligo?
There is no way one can know when and why they may get vitiligo when it comes to vitiligo. Usually, the causes of vitiligo, as per experts, are:
- Hereditary: One of the reasons behind this is genetics. If there is any family history, then the chances of getting vitiligo increase up to 30 percent.
- Autoimmune issues: Vitiligo can happen if a person has a troubled immune system. At times the immune system may destroy its cells like melanocytes, causing a lack of melanin, causing vitiligo.
- Neurogenetic factors: At times, nerve endings may release any toxic substance. This substance may end up attacking the melanocytes causing vitiligo.
These are some of the biggest causes of vitiligo. However, at times, a certain type of acute exposure to any triggering event or substance can also end up causing vitiligo. A person needs to stay away from these triggers. People with a family history of vitiligo and ones with hyperthyroidism, diabetes, kidney issues, autoimmune diseases, etc., should stay away from these triggers all the more. This is because they have a higher chance of getting vitiligo than others.
Few such triggers that one should be aware of are:
- Sun exposure to the extent of sunburn.
- Phenol containing products
- Excessive stress and panic
- Paints and varnishes
- Photographic chemicals and solvents
- Disinfectants, deodorants, soap antioxidants
- Germicidal detergents
- Pesticides and insecticides
- Synthetic oils and printing inks
All these products have harmful chemicals which can act as a trigger to vitiligo. Therefore, one should make sure to use these things less as much as possible.
How to treat vitiligo in its early stages?
Vitiligo may not have any extreme medical repercussion on the body. But, it does cause mental and psychological issues in most of the patients. When the skin starts showing white spots, the person becomes aware and more concerned. And, this can take a toll on one’s mental health. This can cause lower self-esteem and confidence.
To take control of the situation, one can start treating the vitiligo from the early stages itself. Though in most cases, vitiligo is not curable. But one can get their color back temporarily after going through treatments.
However, it is seen that in the very early stages, if one follows treatments, they can slowly remove the white spots.
- Vitiligo diet: Vitiligo is related to immunity. If one chooses their diet to strengthen their immune system, then there is a big chance to treat early vitiligo and stop the spots from spreading. The common diet includes beetroot, cabbage, spinach, green beans, carrot, apricot, figs, mangoes, etc., lean meat, and doctors also suggest organic fish. On the other hand, few things are to be avoided, like dairy products, red meat, eggplant, onion, garlic, etc.
- Corticosteroids: Topical medications like a mix of corticosteroids can be effective in bringing back the skin color.
- Babchi oil for Vitiligo: Babchi oil or bakuchi oil is extracted from a medicinal herb popular in Ayurveda and modern science for its skin healing traits. This oil contains psoralens, which is a substance that produces melanin when exposed to UVA light. Therefore, it is known that using babchi oil during the early stages of vitiligo can help in bringing back the pigmentation of the skin.
- Aloe Vera Vitiligo treatment: Aloe Vera is one of the best skin healing plants. Aloe Vera, when applied to the white patches, it helps in softening and healing the skin. In addition, it can slowly make the spots more pigmented. Also, drinking aloe vera juice can strengthen immunity which can help treat vitiligo.
Few other treatments are:
- Vitamin D analogs
- Dyes for de-pigmented hair
- De-pigmentation therapy using monobenzone
- NB-UVB therapy
- PUVA therapy
Vitiligo is a disease that is not painful yet can be highly distressful. One may not know when and why they may get vitiligo. But, it is always better to be alert and look for early signs. If a person sees any early signs of vitiligo, it is better to go for a thorough medical diagnosis. This will help one prepare for a better treatment plan.