When you find one or more white patches, you must seek a medical consult. Your family physician will diagnose vitiligo after looking at the patches. He will carry out a physical examination to check the extent of pigment loss. He may ask questions to know more about your condition and your genetic susceptibility. He will want to know how you are handling the impact of these skin changes socially, professionally and psychologically.
Learning about your condition
Questions generally asked by your doctor will be like
- How long the patches have been present?
- How rapid was the progression of the patch?
- Is the disease active or inactive?
- Presence of vitiligo in your family/family medical history.
- Presence of other autoimmune conditions in your family history.
- Did you injure the affected area? Any previous sunburn, rash etc?
- History of any recent stress or any major illness?
- How sunlight affects your skin? How sensitive are you?
- What treatments followed so far? Has any treatment been effective?
- Any home remedies been used?
Special diagnostic tools
Your GP will use an ultraviolet lamp called Wood’s Lamp to conduct a more detailed examination of your patch.On accentuation of the patch on woods lamp is a confirmation of the diagnosis. He also can rule out pityriasis versicolor, a medical condition, which also induces pigment loss. A skin biopsy can help in ruling out other causes for pigment loss. Blood and urinalysis for checking thyroid and other hormone levels and vitamin B 12 will be done.
If you happen to have non-segmental vitiligo -check for an autoimmune conditions like
- Addison’s disease
- Pernicious anemia
- Alopecia areata
He will check for symptoms of these and carry out blood and urinalysis for confirmation.
Ruling out similar diseases
He will check to rule out diseases like
- Pityriasis versicolor
- Tinea versicolor
Complications due to vitiligo
Because vitiligo’s main characteristic is loss/destruction of melanocytes, a number of complications may be aggravated due to vitiligo like
- Ocular disease and vitiligo – due to pigment loss in uveal tract and retina, uveitis, and possibly exophthalmos and iritis may occur.
- Auditory complications & vitiligo – hearing defects and hypoacusis because of melanocyte loss in the labyrinth and vestibular areas of the inner ear.
- Autoimmune disorders & vitiligo – autoimmune disorders, especially thyroid related are mostly preceded by vitiligo as per studies.
The goal of treatment is to stop or slow the progression of pigment loss and, if you desire, attempt to return some color to your skin. There are a number of treatments to restore the color to the skin.
- Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leperology – Contact vitiligo: etiology and treatment (P Singh, J Singh, US Agarwal, RK Bhargava) view
- NHS UK – Vitiligo Diagnosis view
- Mayo Clinic – Vitiligo view
- American Association of Dermatology – Vitiligo Diagnosis and Treatment view
- British Association of Dermatology view
- Mayo Clinic – Vitiligo Tests and Diagnosis view