What causes Vitiligo

Vitiligo: stop white spot disease as early as possible

The skin disease vitiligo is also known as white spot disease. The incurable pigment disorder causes a typical complexion.

© dpa

Spots on the skin: Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease.

Those who do not know white spot disease shy away from the sick. Many do not know the reason for the noticeable spots on the skin and fear infection. But vitiligo, as experts call the autoimmune disease, is not contagious. It doesn't hurt either. Vitiligo is treatable, but not curable - those affected have to live with it.

At first only a few white spots are visible

In 1986, Bernd Hampel had small, bright spots near the fingernail beds. "It'll be fine with the next sunbath," he thought at the time and didn't worry about it any further. But the spots remained white. And there were always more to be seen. They didn't hurt. The dermatologists Hampel went to couldn't do anything with the symptoms.

One symptoms and many comorbidities

The course of the disease is different for each patient. Most often, vitiligo begins on the face, hands, or feet. There are no other symptoms, but there are many comorbidities. The most common are thyroid problems or other autoimmune diseases. Diabetes, rheumatism or the skin disease psoriasis can also occur.

Stress is often the first trigger

The first trigger for the white spots is often severe psychological stress. Whenever Hampel had stress at work or in the family, new spots were added. In 2005, after the biggest surge, more than half of his body was affected, says the organizer of a self-help group in Leipzig.

The cause is genetic

Most of the time, however, the cause of vitiligo lies in the genes. "There is a mutation that was triggered, for example, by environmental pollution," explains Anke Hartmann from the Dermatology Clinic at Erlangen University Hospital. In addition, the tendency to autoimmune diseases, and thus also to vitiligo, is inherited. Around a third of those affected also have sick family members.

Stop the spread of the stains as early as possible

It wasn't until Hampel got access to the internet in the 1990s and was able to research the strange spots on his skin that he found out about the disease. The sooner those affected go to the doctor when they have symptoms, the better, says Raphael Shimshoni, chief physician at the Schloss Friedensburg specialist hospital in Leutenberg, Thuringia. Because this way the spread of the white spots can be stopped as soon as possible.

Health insurance companies see Vitiligo as a cosmetic problem

Vitiligo often begins in childhood, in half of those affected before the age of 20. Around one percent of the world's population is affected by white spot disease. The health insurance companies only see it as a cosmetic problem, even if those affected often suffer a lot from it, especially psychologically.

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Therapy: UV light and cortisone

In Hartmann's experience, spot irradiation of the affected areas with narrow-band UV light helps best. If successful, the irradiation leads to repigmentation of the white areas of the skin. However, the health insurance only pays for full-body irradiation. Cortisone or alternative methods can also help. However, not all people respond to such treatment options. In order not to attract attention, many people help themselves with self-tanners or make-up.

Patients have to live with the disease

Hampel says he has now come to terms with the disease. "I made my mental peace with Vitiligo," emphasizes the 59-year-old. He also advises other people affected: You should not get involved in the disease under any circumstances. That only leads to stress - and thus to new stains.

Source: dpa

| Updated: Wednesday April 17, 2013 11:44 am

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