The Truth about Vitiligo

Vitiligo is considered a common disorder, affecting between 0.5 percent and 1 percent of the population worldwide. Despite being considered common, it can feel incredibly isolating or scary to have your daughter receive this diagnosis, especially if you haven’t had any experience with vitiligo before. Read on to see what you can do to help a growing girl with vitiligo embrace this skin condition and her unique, beautiful skin.

My Daughter Has Been Diagnosed With Vitiligo, Now What?

Now that you’ve received a diagnosis, you probably have more questions than answers. If you’re wondering how much of her body will lose pigmentation, that is shown in part by what type of vitiligo she has

  1. Focal Vitiligo: This type is shown with just a few vitiligo spots in a single area.
  2. Segmental Vitiligo This is the most rare form, with patches found on one side of the body and nowhere else.
  3. Generalized Vitiligo: This is the most common type and is also referred to as ‘universal’ or ‘complete’ vitiligo. This type is shown by many patches all over the body, oftentimes shown in a symmetrical pattern on the right and left sides of the body.

While vitiligo usually begins with a few small white patches, it can gradually spread over the body during the course of months and years. It generally begins on the extremities — hands, forearms, feet and face — but it can develop on any part of the body, including the eyes and inner ears.

Sometimes the large patches will continue to widen, but usually they stay in the same spot for years. The smaller patches can shift and change over time, sometimes even regaining pigmentation in areas. These white patches are sensitive to the sun so you can get painful sunburns on the lighter areas of the skin. Make sure to get in the habit of using sunscreen or protective clothing during the warm months.

According to about 10 to 20  percent of people with vitiligo will fully regain their skin pigmentation. The odds of this happening are higher if your daughter was diagnosed young, if the vitiligo reaches its peak in less than six months, or if it’s located mainly on her face.

Quality of Life for my Daughter with Vitiligo

Thankfully vitiligo is not a life-threatening or painful condition, although it can be life changing. Your daughter might experience feelings of negative or low self-esteem as she adapts to the loss of pigment on her body over the years. She could struggle with her identity, especially as a person of color who might no longer feel like they fit in with their friends or family as their skin changes. If your daughter is experiencing these changes at a young age she might even be subject to bullying at school because she looks different.

As a mom, this can be the most heart breaking part of vitiligo but with a close mother-daughter relationship, you can work together and overcome these challenges as they arise. Talk to your daughter about her feelings, let her know that you are a safe person with whom to share anything she is thinking or feeling about vitiligo. If she’s experiencing a negative impact on her emotional or mental well being then don’t be afraid to reach out and get professional help for her so she can work through her feelings.

Ways to Help my Daughter with Vitiligo

Vitiligo can be challenging but it does not have to be a challenge that stops your daughter from achieving her dreams. There are models, actors and professionals living full and abundant lives with this skin condition, so share these examples with your daughter to encourage her. When she sees others with vitiligo–happy, thriving and doing great things–it can give her the courage she needs to battle any negative thoughts or to stand up to the naysayers. One of the most famous people with vitiligo in the public eye was Micheal Jackson. Each year there is a World Vitiligo Day held on his birthday to bring awareness and conversation about vitiligo (read more about this day and how you can participate by clicking here).
Consider reaching out on social media and the Internet to find friends like her. Set her up with a pen pal who also has vitiligo so she doesn’t feel alone. Assist her in making friends with people who understand this unique part of her life. Help her learn how to be a true friend and recognize true friendship in others so she can surround herself with friends and family who will stand up for her and love her just the way she is.

Are There Treatments for Vitiligo?

There is no known cure for vitiligo, although you can read up on current studies and what’s being learned about managing or treating this condition by clicking here. There are a few potential treatments to help restore pigmentation, though the results aren’t guaranteed to last or work for everyone. Consult with your doctor or dermatologist about the treatments and if they would be the best fit for your daughter considering her age and how wide-spread her vitiligo patches are on her body.

There are also products such as skin camouflages — waterproof creams to help blend vitiligo patches to look like your natural skin tone. This is only temporary, but it can help your daughter feel less self-conscious. These creams can last 12-18 hours on the face and 2-3 days on the body.