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Ask the Expert: Do White Patches On My Skin Mean I Have Vitiligo?

Ask the Expert is where we answer questions on all aspects of your health and wellness. Send in your health-related questions to expert@healthworks.my.

Question:

I recently heard about a pigment disorder called vitiligo. What are its symptoms and causes? Is there any cure? I have some white patches on my arms and breasts and I can’t help wondering if it is vitiligo.

Answer:

Vitiligo is a disorder due to the loss of pigments in certain areas of the skin, resulting in smooth, white patches, which may happen suddenly or gradually.

Source: the-medical-dictionary.com

Source: the-medical-dictionary.com

This loss of pigmentation can happen anywhere on your body, including your skin, hair, genitals and inside of the mouth. Besides the affected skin turning completely white, most people do not report any other signs or symptoms.

Types of Vitiligo

Source: aad.org

Source: aad.org

What Causes Vitiligo? 

Vitiligo happens when the cells that give our skin and hair colour (called melanocytes) die off. The causes of the deaths are unknown, but some of the factors could be due to injury trauma or genes. Vitiligo also tends to occur with other diseases such as diabetes, thyroid disease and Addison’s disease.

Your risk of getting vitiligo increase if: 

  • A close relative of yours has vitiligo
  • You have an autoimmune disease

Diagnosis & Treatment for Vitiligo

It’s best to take a visit to the dermatologist before panicking yourself. The dermatologist will review your medical history and perform a physical exam, checking the affected areas before diagnosis.

While there’s no cure for vitiligo, there are many treatment options that could help you restore your skin colour. These include the use of steroids, photo chemotherapy and medication that could help regulate the immune system plus possibly surgery.

As vitiligo poses no danger to your body, some people choose not to treat it and instead manages it with cosmetics like makeup, tanning and skin dye.

Learn more about diagnosis and treatment options here.

Caring for Vitiligo-Affected Skin

As the vitiligo-affected skins areas are more prone to sunburn, the daily use of sunscreen and cosmetics is recommended. It’d be good to wear clothes that protect affected skin from the sun as well. Check with a doctor for medical advice.

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Ask the Expert is where we answer questions on all aspects of your health and wellness. Send in your health-related questions to expert@healthworks.my.

Ask the Expert is where we answer questions on all aspects of your health and wellness. This panel of experts is facilitated by our content partner Only Health, which include Beldeu Singh, Datin Farah Diba Khan, Dr Ahmad Fauzi Md Sharif, Dr George Yap, Dr Harvinder Singh, Dr Kuljit Singh, Dr Leow Chee Seng, Dr Muhaya Hj Mohamad, Dr Shalini Kanagasingam, Dr Yap Yoke Yeow, Prof Dr Muhaya Hj Mohamad, and Prof Ong Kok Hai.

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