What Is Leucoderma?
Leucoderma (literally, white skin) is a skin condition where white patches and spots develop on the skin. The disease is a very common disease all over the world. It is closely related to another condition known as vitiligo, and in most contexts, the two terms are used synonymously.
Leucoderma is not contagious. It is caused simply due to a faulty pigmentation mechanism of the skin. It might begin as small spots in particular regions of the body but can grow up to cover most of the skin. It can begin at a younger age, but by the time the person reaches 60 years, it can cover most of the visible areas of the skin. This condition has no known cure. However, it is not dangerous.
There are several misconceptions about leucoderma. In olden days, this condition was mistaken for leprosy. However, the two conditions have absolutely no connection. It is also a false notion that dark people suffer from leucoderma more than fair-skinned people. The truth is that people of all skin types have an equal chance of getting this condition. The only difference is that the white patches show much more easily on darker skin. Also, the condition affects both men and women in equal measure.
Why Is Leucoderma Caused?
Leucoderma is caused due to the depigmentation of the skin. The skin is given its color by a pigment known as melanin. This pigment is produced under the skin layer by specialized cells known as melanocytes. In some people, these melanocytes begin to die out on certain areas of the skin. These areas can then no longer produce the pigment melanin and hence they lose their color.
The exact reason why some people’s melanocytes begin to die out is not yet known. It is because of this reason — not knowing the exact cause — that medical science has not yet been able to find a cure for this problem.
What Are the Symptoms of Leucoderma?
The symptoms of leucoderma are quite directly visible. These are seen as white spots at first but they can soon grow to larger spots. They might keep growing throughout the rest of the person’s life.
The patches are simply a loss of the pigment in that area of the skin. They do not itch or pain or bleed. There is absolutely no difference in this region of the skin from any other region apart from the loss of color. For this reason, some people consider leucoderma to only be a cosmetic problem rather than a medical issue.
The white spots or patches can appear anywhere on the skin. They can appear on the face and back and the limbs and even the scalp. In some people, they can also occur in the eyes and in the inside of the mouth. Any part of the skin that normally contains the pigment melanin is vulnerable to leucoderma.
Who Can Be Affected by Leucoderma?
Leucoderma can begin in an individual at any age. However, statistics show that most people who develop leucoderma begin to show the initial signs at around 20 years.
People who have autoimmune disorders are at a higher risk to develop leucoderma. An example of this is people who suffer from hyperthyroidism. However, why autoimmune disorders increase the chances of leucoderma is not known to medical science.
There might also be a genetic propensity to get leucoderma. It runs in families. However, once again, these genetic trends are not clearly known. In many cases, people whose parents have leucoderma might not develop it themselves. Some statistics indicate that if both parents have leucoderma, then the child has a 50% chance of developing the condition.
What Can People with Leucoderma Do?
Leucoderma does not have a standard treatment. It is supposed to have no cure. Hence, most of the modes of treatment are cosmetic and aim at equalizing the discolored patch with the rest of the skin. The following are some of the methods that might be used:-
- Certain creams and ointments are available for topical use over the discolored patches. These might have some effect but they are not known to be a surefire solution.
- There are oral medications available as well, but their success is also not guaranteed.
- Ultraviolet treatments are also known to work. In this method, a specific stream of ultraviolet light is made incident on the discolored patch of skin. This might make the region darker and more equalized with the other portions of the skin. However, prolonged treatment in this mode is not recommended as ultraviolet light is known to cause cancers.
- Certain methods can be employed to discolor the surrounding portions of skin so that the whole surface looks uniform.
- Another method that might be employed is to inject some kinds of ink in the white portions, much like a tattoo artist might do.
- Skin grafts from other areas of the skin to the discolored parts of skin can also work. However, this is an expensive method and even the grafted skin might later get demelanized and lose its color.
- Certain sunscreen products promise to darken the white patches of leucoderma. However, their effectiveness is a matter of skepticism.
Some Things to Remember if You Have Leucoderma
First of all, you should know that leucoderma is not a life-threatening condition in any way. It does not even have show any complications or develop into more dangerous issues. Apart from the cosmetic aspect, it does not hamper a person’s life in any way.
However, it might cause emotional distress. You should not let your white spots begin to rule you. Remember that this is a very common condition and it cannot be helped. It is not caused due to any failure on your part.
Also, it does not really help to keep scouting for cures. You might try to cosmetically hide the white spots, but they won’t go away permanently. The best thing to do is to learn to live with the condition and keep your confidence levels so that it does not come in the way of leading a good life.