Also known as Vitiligo, Leukoderma is a skin disease that causes loss of skin pigmentation (melanin) that leads to skin whitening. The white patches on the skin are termed as leukoderma. When the condition gets severe, the spots cover almost all parts of the body including scalp, face and the genitals.
The main sign and symptom of leukoderma are milky white patches on the skin. Other signs include:
Premature greying of hair (eyelashes, beard and eyebrow)
Loss of colour in the mucous membranes (tissues that line the inside of the mouth)
Change in colour of retina
Though leukoderma can affect any part of the body, pigmentation usually occurs first on sun-exposed areas of the body
There are two types of leukoderma: Segmental and Non-segmental.
Segmental Leukoderma - The symptoms of segmental leukoderma start showing up at an early stage while affecting one side or segment of the body. This type progresses only for a few years.
Non-Segmental Leukoderma - Starting with a short-lived burst of discolouration, this type affects both sides of the body and expands with new cycles of pigment loss throughout the life.
Since there is no permanent leukoderma treatment available, the primary goal of the doctors during the treatment is to improve the appearance of the affected area. Light therapy, medication and surgery are the three prime treatment options for this disease.
Medication - To help re-pigment the skin, doctors advise topical creams that control inflammation or affect the immune system.
Light Therapy - Repeated light therapy sessions have proved fruitful in restoring some colour of the affected area. Narrow-band UVB (311) phototherapy and PUVA therapy are the two types of light therapy used in leucoderma treatment. PUVA has a more powerful effect on pigment cells as compared to Narrow-band UVB (311) phototherapy.
Cosmetics - Application of skin tanners or makeup on the affected area remains the safest option for those with minor patches of leukoderma.
Surgery - Pigmented skin is removed from the affected area using skin and blister grafting techniques that are then attached to the affected areas.
Reducing exposure to chemicals, sun and keeping stress at bay are steps one can take to prevent pigment loss.