Vitiligo In Children – Prevention And Treatment

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Are you worried about the white patches appearing on your child’s body? Are you wondering if it is a sign of a serious disease? Well, if you can relate to the above situations reading this post is a good idea.

Parents become paranoid to notice even the slightest rash on their child’s delicate skin. But are you aware white patches on your child’s body may indicate that he is suffering from vitiligo? Want to know more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this health condition? Read on!

What Is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a medical condition in which white patches appear on the child’s skin. It can affect people of all skin types and age groups. Vitiligo is not contagious, infectious or even life-threatening.

Medical experts consider vitiligo to be an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disorders occur when the immune system attacks certain body cells or parts. Scientists believe that in the case of vitiligo, the immune system destroys melanocytes, which produce the pigment melanin. Melanin provides the skin with its color and also protects it from sun damage (1).

The patches can occur on any part of the body, but these normally appear on body parts that receive a lot of sun exposure such as the face, neck, and hands. Vitiligo patches can also appear on the skin around knees, elbows, armpits, groin, nostrils, and eyes. Vitiligo patients are at a greater risk of suffering from skin cancer, sunburns, hearing loss, vision-related problems, dry skin, itching, and emotional distress than others (2).

[ Read: Autoimmune Diseases In Children ]

Types Of Vitiligo:

1. Segmental Vitiligo:

It is a less common type of vitiligo. In this condition, the white patches may occur on only one area of the body. It is localized vitiligo.

2. Non-Segmental Vitiligo:

Also called generalized vitiligo is a common skin condition in which symmetrical patches appear on both sides of the body (3).

Causes Of Vitiligo In Children:

The exact cause of vitiligo is still unknown. Most doctors think that vitiligo may be an autoimmune disorder. Some experts also consider it a genetic disorder as a good percentage of children with vitiligo have at least one family member who also suffers from the disease. Children who have a family history of autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, thyroid and alopecia are also at more risk of suffering from vitiligo. Emotional distress, exposure to industrial chemicals or sunburn too may trigger vitiligo.

Symptoms Of Vitiligo In Children:

  • White patches.
  • Skin discoloration on any one or various parts of the body.
  • Premature gray hair on eyebrows, eyelashes, and the scalp.
  • Discoloration in the retina and inner lining of the mouth and nose.

Diagnosis Of Vitiligo:

The doctor may also inquire about the patient’s medical history to know about the genetic risks from autoimmune diseases. For this, the doctor may also conduct simple blood tests and eye examinations. The doctor may also ask about the child’s recent exposure to sun, cases of sunburns and rashes.

He may also inquire about any emotional or psychological distress or any other stress the child may have suffered from recently. In rare cases, the doctor may perform a biopsy to rule out any other cause of the patches.

Vitiligo in Children:

Most children with vitiligo develop the condition by the age of four or five years. However, even children below one year of age can get vitiligo patches. One key difference between childhood vitiligo and adult vitiligo is that the former largely affects females. Also, segmental vitiligo is more common in children.

More often, children with vitiligo suffer from low confidence, and this often lasts throughout their lifetime. Children with vitiligo develop an inferiority complex when there is a lack of adequate psychological and emotional care for them (4).

[ Read: Henoch-Schonlein Purpura In Children ]

Treatment Of Vitiligo In Children:

Some common treatments for children with vitiligo are:

  • Corticosteroid Creams:

The use of the topical steroid cream is effective in the initial phases of vitiligo. Its use has been quite successful for treating localized vitiligo but not so much for repigmentation of the patches. For repigmentation purposes, children may need to use it for a long time. Such long-term use of steroid creams is not considered good for children as it adversely affects their growth and can also cause them numerous health problems.

  • Calcineurin Inhibitors:

Calcineurin inhibitors work by suppressing the immune system. According to some studies, its use has been successful in slowing the progression of childhood vitiligo. It has lesser side-effects than long-term use of topical steroids.

  • Calcipotriol:

It is a synthetic form of vitamin D3 and its use along with other topical applications is beneficial for treating childhood vitiligo.

  • Phototherapy:

Use of ultraviolet rays has been common in treating skin problems. For the treatment of vitiligo, doctors use both UVA and UVB rays in different ways. But for children with vitiligo, phototherapy use is limited as it might be toxic for them. Doctors usually use it in combination with other therapies to treat childhood vitiligo.

  • Surgeries:

It is not a treatment option for young children. But for older kids, surgeries for repigmentation are successful. Doctors perform such surgeries to use skin grafts to even out the discolored patches.

[ Read: Common Skin Rashes In Children ]

Tips To Cope With Emotional Distress Of Childhood Vitiligo:

For children, the emotional distress of vitiligo can hamper their life in many ways. Coping with an illness that alters the physical appearance may be difficult for children. Therefore, along with physical treatments it is also important for kids to undergo counseling to deal with vitiligo. Here are some steps parents can take to ensure emotional healing for children with vitiligo:

  • Find a doctor who is an expert in dealing with childhood vitiligo.
  • Help your child to connect with other children suffering from vitiligo. Doing so can help young patients develop their support system, which can be extremely valuable.
  • Give your child the benefit of cognitive therapies. Such therapies can be quite useful for young vitiligo patients who also suffer from low self-esteem as a result of their condition.
  • Use cosmetics to conceal vitiligo patches only if your child is comfortable with it.

As of now, there is no complete cure for vitiligo. If your child suffers from this condition, the important thing to remember is that he may also suffer from low self-esteem because of it. Remember, staying out of the sun, use of sunscreens and appropriate treatment plans as advised by the doctor is the way forward for young patients.

Does your child suffer from vitiligo? How do you help him cope with the physical and emotional stress of the condition? Please share your experience and advice with other moms here.

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