Increased stress over the last year has taken its toll on everyone, but for the millions of people worldwide living with vitiligo — a skin disease that causes the skin to lose its natural color — new research suggests that the effects of stress may be more than skin deep.

Research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology assessed perceptions of stress from 535 people with vitiligo to understand how stress affects the disease and its progression. According to the study, more than half of those who participated shared that stress triggered their vitiligo. The findings also suggest that people with a family history of vitiligo, women, and people with a personal history of allergic disease, such as asthma or atopic dermatitis, are more likely to have stress-influenced vitiligo.

“This research further substantiates what I have experienced specializing in the care and treatment of patients with vitiligo. It is especially important to understand that vitiligo is a medical condition, so seeing a board-certified dermatologist is critically important even if you aren’t seeking treatment to restore lost skin color. Vitiligo also can effect self-esteem and quality of life, so I encourage anyone living with vitiligo to have open conversations about the stress in their lives and how their disease is impacting them on a day-to-day basis.”

— Seemal Desai, MD, FAAD, who maintains a private practice in Dallas and is a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Desai offers the following tips for people living with vitiligo:

  • Protect your skin from the sun: Everyone who has vitiligo can benefit from sun protection. Skin that has lost its natural color tends to sunburn easily, and a bad sunburn can worsen vitiligo. Seek shade, wear protective-clothing — including a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection — and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing when outdoors.
  • Do not use tanning beds or sun lamps: These are not safe alternatives to the sun.
  • Consider lifestyle modifications: Stress is a normal response to change. However, certain lifestyle behaviors can help manage stress, such as getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and asking for help.
  • Connect with others: The emotional aspects of having vitiligo are often overlooked, but they are real. Online support groups offer support and can connect you with others living with vitiligo where you can share your experiences.

[Source(s): American Academy of Dermatology, Newswise]

Related Content:
Clinical Study Aims to Evaluate Vitiligo Repigmentation System
Long-Term Phototherapy for Vitiligo Associated With Reduced Risk for Heart Disease, Stroke
Vitiligo Is Linked to Increased Risk for Psychiatric Disorders