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Vitiligo isn’t a condition anyone wants to deal with. However, for those with dark skin, it is far worse. In these cases, vitiligo goes beyond a simple skin condition. It morphs into something seriously harmful. 

This article will explore these differences and the harm created. Keep reading to find out more. 

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How Does Vitiligo Affect Different Skin Types? 

Vitiligo is notable for the problems it presents for people with dark skin. However, it actually has an equal impact on all skin types. The difference is that this impact is far more noticeable on dark skin

While this may seem like an innocuous difference, it has dramatic repercussions. People with dark skin have to deal with problems from vitiligo in an entirely different way because the way it presents itself is different. For them, it is a highly noticeable skin condition that immediately sets them apart from those around them. 

The fact that vitiligo is so noticeable on dark skin has consequences. For many, it makes them feel self-conscious and causes them to suffer from social stigma. These problems then cause stress, low self-esteem, anxiety, and even depression. By presenting in a different way, vitiligo has different health impacts. 

How Common Is Vitiligo? 

Vitiligo isn’t necessarily common, but it isn’t necessarily uncommon, either. It is estimated to affect around 0.76% to 1.11% of Americans

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However, this number is hard to estimate, as many cases of vitiligo go undiagnosed. This is partly because it is easier to diagnose people with dark skin and difficult to diagnose people with lighter skin. As a result, many cases go undiagnosed in people with lighter skin. Meanwhile, healthcare issues in underserved communities prevent another segment of the population from being included in the research. Because of this, it is hard to get a straight answer as to exactly how common vitiligo is. 

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What Causes Vitiligo? 

There is still a lot about vitiligo that we still don’t understand, including what exactly causes it. However, it is generally agreed that there appear to be three leading causes. 

Genetics

The first and most obvious cause of vitiligo is genetics. It has been found that when someone in a family has vitiligo, other family members also have a higher chance of getting it. 

The way it appears and disappears in a family tree can almost feel random. It may be seen in siblings or cousins but not their parents. Or, the opposite may be true. This makes it hard to use genetics as a precise indicator. 

Stress

While most people think of stress as something mental that they deal with, it can manifest in physical ways. One of these ways appears to be through vitiligo. 

There is evidence that stress may be to blame for vitiligo in some people. This may be due to substances released when someone is under high levels of stress. These appear to cause cell death in a way that causes vitiligo. 

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Chemicals

Sometimes, the cause of vitiligo isn’t internal; it is external. There are chemicals that can actually cause vitiligo through exposure. 

These chemicals include monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone (MBEH), 4-tert-butylcatechol (4-TBC), 4-tert-butylphenol (4-TBP), 4-tert-amylphenol (4-TAP), para-phenylenediamine (PPD), Alta, rhododendrol, and phenol. These chemicals are found in various products, from cosmetics to detergents and plenty in between.

In some cases, vitiligo caused by chemicals will fade over time. However, in others, it will not. As with many other things related to vitiligo, it is hard to say anything certain in this regard. 

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How Do Different Types of Vitiligo Manifest? 

Vitiligo manifests differently in different people. This has led to two main classifications for vitiligo. 

Non-Segmental Vitiligo

The most common form of vitiligo is non-segmental vitiligo. Vitiligo can appear on both sides of a person’s body with this form. 

Non-segmental vitiligo often starts around a person’s hands, feet, or face. However, it spreads from there. The spread can occur over a period of time before pausing. Then, it can start back up again before pausing again. This cycle may continue for an indeterminate period of time. 

Typically, this form of vitiligo spreads to the point where it makes up a large portion of a person’s skin. This makes it more noticeable than the other variety. 

Segmental vitiligo

While non-segmental vitiligo spreads across the body, segmental vitiligo is more limited. It is typically confined to a single piece of the body. For example, it may appear on one arm or a leg. However, it does not spread past this point. 

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The progression of this form is also less aggressive. Usually, the person with it will encounter it at an early age. Once it starts, it will spread for about a year but then stop. Once it stops, it should not start back up again. 

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a hand shaking a hand of a person with vitiligo

Is There A Cure For Vitiligo? 

Unfortunately, there currently is no cure for vitiligo. Those who have it and want a cure have to make do with treatment instead. 

Luckily, there are a few types of treatment available. The most common include creams and other products designed to make non-pigmented skin look darker. These include non-medical options, like self-tan, and medical options, like the first FDA-approved treatment. Outside of this, some people use light-based treatments, surgery, or undergo a procedure that depigments the rest of their skin. 

However, treatment is another place where people with darker skin are disproportionately hurt by vitiligo. Many of the treatment creams are not approved by the FDA and, thus, are usually not available through insurance. To add insult to injury, many insurance providers do not cover treatment for vitiligo at all since the treatment is considered to be an “unnecessary” cosmetic treatment, despite the mental damage caused by the condition. 

Treatment is also most effective when it is done early. However, this is complicated by other issues, which makes detection even more important. 

Diversity in Vitiligo

While vitiligo may attack everyone in the same way, it creates far more problems for people with darker skin. Recognizing this is an important part of dealing with it and creating the systemic changes needed to help those suffering from the condition more.

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