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Vitiligo in Children: Early Signs, Causes, and Treatment

Vitiligo in Children:

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease, where the cells of the body consider its own cells as foreign and attack them. A similar thing happens in vitiligo where the body cells confuse melanocytes as foreign bodies and attack them.

Children with autoimmune disease also run a risk of suffering from other autoimmune diseases such as thyroid, diabetes, and Addison’s disease. This is why kids suffering from vitiligo need to be taken special care of at all times. Even if it is not a life-threatening condition, it can be mentally and emotionally scarring. So, make sure you give your child the love and support they need and make them feel beautiful in every way you can.

Signs and Symptoms of Vitiligo in Kids:

The first signs of vitiligo in kids are white patches on the skin that are commonly found on the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. Sometimes, vitiligo in babies also results in whitening of hair. In some children, vitiligo patches don’t spread whereas in some children, it spreads rapidly all over the body.

These are common signs and symptoms of vitiligo in kids:

  • The skin of a child with vitiligo start losing its colour and appear lighter than natural skin colour. The loss could be in patches and then spread all over.

  • One more early symptom of vitiligo in children is premature whitening or greying of hair without any other known underlying condition. Whitening or greying could occur on the hair of the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes.

  • Vitiligo tends to first show its symptoms in the crevices and cavities. First signs of vitiligo in kids could also be hypopigmentation in the oral and nasal cavity

  • Sometimes, vitiligo also affects the colour of the inner layer of the eyes that is of the retina and it could be easy to notice since the change in eye colour seldom occurs during young age

Causes of Vitiligo in Children:

Since it is an autoimmune disease, the cause of vitiligo is still unknown in children. Even though it is a genetic disease caused by a mutation in genes or genome (set of genes) and is usually said to be ‘running in the family’, it is not necessarily a hereditary disease. So, if you have vitiligo, you can’t be sure if it’ll be passed on to your child. The exact cause for melanocyte dysfunction is yet to be discovered but it could be due to:

  • Though vitiligo is known to be a genetic disorder, it has been seen that vitiligo often appears in the kids of people already suffering from vitiligo. Hence, one major reason could be hereditary passing on of the disorder.

  • Autoimmunity is a disorder where the body confuses melanocytes as an outside antigen, letting the immune system destroy them. Hence, the presence of autoimmunity in a child can lead to vitiligo along with other autoimmune diseases

  • Though research has yet not satisfactorily found out the exact cause of vitiligo in kids, it has been seen that certain environmental factors such as sunburn, stress, exposure to chemicals play an active role in causing the disorder.

No matter the cause, whether autoimmunity or hereditary, vitiligo is definitely not a contagious disease and your child can’t have it by coming in contact with someone with vitiligo.

Vitiligo Treatment For Children

Vitiligo has no 100% effective cure, and some patches might even disappear without any treatment. But there is no medical treatment that will make the pigmentation stop. There are some treatments that can reduce the inflammation caused by vitiligo and help even out the skin tone, but the results vary from child to child.

Usually, the first line of treatment for vitiligo in kids is a topical medication that are either corticosteroids or immune modulators. Some doctors may recommend light treatments of phototherapy to reduce the inflammation.

Here are some most common treatments for vitiligo in children:

1. Topical treatment: Certain creams, ointments and dermatologist prescribes lotions to be applied topically can help even out the skin tone and prevent the spread of vitiligo in children

2. Mineral complex cream: Mineral complex creams with vitamins, amino acids and minerals help keep the immunity stronger and repair the skin

3. Sun protection: Several sunscreen creams and gels with higher SPF and UVA and UVB protection are often prescribed by dermatologists to curb the skin sensitivity after examining the cause and results of vitiligo in kids

4. Oral vitamins supplements: In case of vitiligo in babies when critical following of diet is not possible, several oral supplements are prescribed in order to boost the immunity

5. Steroid pulse therapy: This is an effective treatment method to arrest the progression of vitiligo and induce spontaneous repigmentation of the skin.

6 Phototherapy: It includes recurrent exposure to UVA and UVB after taking a medicine that makes skin sensitive to light. Though it is quite an extensive treatment and requires frequent clinic visits, it is still one of the highly used treatments to treat vitiligo.

Vitiligo in Children Prevention

Since there is no way to predetermine if the child has vitiligo or not, there isn’t a preventive treatment that is available for vitiligo. However, some people have prevented the spread of vitiligo by applying certain tips and lifestyle changes. Though these have different results on different people, some can be used for kids and help prevent the spread:

1. Water is said to be the ultimate elixir because it keeps our skin hydrated, helps throw the toxins out of the body and keeps the body active. Hence, drinking a lot of water to boost the immune system is said to be one of the solutions to prevent vitiligo in children

2. As mentioned in the causes of vitiligo, the sun plays an important role in the occurrence of vitiligo in babies. Hence, it is important to avoid excess exposure to heat and sun to prevent the disorder

3. Though it is not always possible to avoid stepping out in the sun, one must take extreme precautions such as applying and reapplying sunscreen, covering the exposed body parts with clothing and keeping the body hydrated out in the sun to prevent vitiligo in kids

4. Preventive measures for vitiligo in kids also extend to preventing the spread of the disorder. Hence, consuming good, nutritious food and making necessary dietary changes is must to reduce the inflammation, pain and spread of vitiligo

Vitiligo in Children Diet

What children consume have a huge impact on their growth, development and immunity. Providing them nutrient-rich food and helping them strengthen their immunity is the way to go ahead in case of vitiligo.

Here are some simple dietary changes to be made in kids suffering from vitiligo:

1. Consuming green leafy vegetables and fruits like banana and apple can help contribute a holistic diet in children, which in turn increases the immunity of kids suffering from vitiligo

2. Consuming food rich in Vitamin B, Vitamin C, amino acids and folic acid help repair the cells and help curb the spread of vitiligo in kids

3. Having foods rich in minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium is a great way to support the growth of body and its immunity thus allowing the cells to function better and suppress autoimmune conditions if any

4. It is a must for children with vitiligo to avoid junk food which contributes fats and sugar in the body. These worsen the immunity further and can boost the spread of vitiligo.

Is Vitiligo Curable in Children?

Vitiligo is not a curable disease and has no effective treatment in kids. Sometimes, vitiligo stops spreading or even the patches could go away on their own but there is no guarantee of that happening in every individual. Hence, doctors may prescribe certain treatments to see what works for treating vitiligo in that particular child and may suggest treatment accordingly.

There are also treatments to help even out the skin tone and give a uniform skin colour to the kid. However, since conditions and genetic make of children are very different, no two cases can be the same. Hence, a cure that works for one might not work at all for another child. However, there are various treatments to reduce the spread and certain preventive measure to help reduce the inflammation.

Which Parts Does Vitiligo Affect In Children?

The early signs of vitiligo in kids are small white dots and small patches on the arms and legs. Hence, if there is even a remote history of vitiligo in your family, pay extra attention to the occurrence of these patches in your child and keep an eye on early signs.

Though vitiligo can happen anywhere on the body, it’s more likely to happen on areas of skin that are:

  • Areas of skin that are more exposed to the sun, such as face and hands, are more susceptible to vitiligo patches in children. These parts are often not covered and hence are the first to show early symptoms

  • As much as exposure to the sun is harmful, it is equally important for skin to get air to breathe. Which is why, areas with folds in the body, such as the elbows, knees and groin are susceptible to vitiligo patches due to insufficient cleaning and breathing space.

  • The skin around body openings such as the eyes, nostrils and belly button are more prone to loss of skin colour since the skin around these places is thin and highly sensitive.

Bottom Line

Even though vitiligo in babies is not a life-threatening condition, it can scar them for life. Hence, make sure to give them the emotional and psychological support they need. Once they are a little older, make them understand what the condition is and encourage them to join help groups in order to make them feel confident about themselves.

Initial treatments for vitiligo in children need to be done only after a thorough consultation with a doctor. Please remember that not every patch of skin discoloration is a result of vitiligo and hence need to be confirmed with a dermatologist before directly jumping onto the treatments.

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