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Penile Vitiligo (Vitiligo Penis) : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Vitiligo is a long-term skin condition that causes the skin to lose its pigment in patches. The affected area becomes white in colour and has distinctive margins, showing the difference between the individual's original complexion [1]  and the patch. It is not limited to any specific part and can affect any part of your body. It can even develop inside your mouth [2]  and nose. In most cases, it affects the part of the skin that is exposed to the sun.

penile vitiligo

Penile vitiligo or vitiligo penis is caused in the male [3]  genital area. It causes the skin to lose colour and develop patches of depigmented skin. The hair around the affected area turns white as well. The condition appears on the shaft and the foreskin and not on the head or the glans of the penis. Vitiligo is not limited to any specific age and can develop during any point in your age. But in most cases, it develops before the age of 20.

Vitiligo is not contagious and does not affect the health [4]  or the functioning of the penis. The condition is considered to be autoimmune in nature.

Symptoms Of Penile Vitiligo

Appearing on the foreskin and the shaft of the penis, the major sign of the condition is patches of skin that are depigmented. Along with this, the condition has other symptoms such as [5]

  • loss of colour in the mucous membranes (such as the around the linings of the nose and mouth),
  • change in vision (which is caused due to the loss of pigment in the inner lining of the eyeball), and
  • grey or white hair.

The symptoms and the nature of vitiligo categorise it to three subtypes, such as

  • segmental vitiligo[6]  (which only affects one side of the body),
  • generalised vitiligo [7]  (which affects every part of your body), and
  • localised vitiligo (which affects only one or two areas in your body).

However, if one experiences symptoms such as erectile dysfunction [8] , difficulty in urinating and pain, consult a urologist immediately.

Also readDiet Tips For Vitiligo Patients

Causes Of Penile Vitiligo

Generally, the condition is caused when the melanocytes [9]  (cells that produce skin colour) in one's body stops functioning. There is a lack of definite evidence in the medical field about the cause of penis vitiligo. However, it is believed that the condition is developed due to the following factors such as

  • stress,
  • genes,
  • exposure to specific chemicals or phenols and catechols, 
  • sunburn, and
  • dysfunction of the immune system.

Apart from the aforementioned causes, scientific studies have revealed that penile vitiligo is an autoimmune condition [10] . This condition occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacking the healthy cells in the body.

Diagnosis Of Penile Vitiligo

The autoimmune condition is identified by the medical professional through a physical examination [11] . During the physical examination, the doctor will examine your penis and the rest of the body. This is done to examine whether the other parts of your body is also affected by vitiligo.

An ultraviolet light will be used to examine the affected areas, as it helps in confirming whether the skin pigmentation disorder is indeed caused by vitiligo. Also, depending on your symptoms, a biopsy will be conducted where the doctor may take a sample of your penis skin to be examined under the microscope. The biopsy is conducted so as to rule out the possibility of balanitis xerotica obliterans.

The doctor will ask about your family medical history [12]  so as to examine whether anyone in your family has the autoimmune condition.

Also readNatural Remedies To Get Rid Of Vitiligo On The Skin

Treatments For Penile Vitiligo

The skin condition is not a curable one. That is, vitiligo does not have any treatments that can completely heal it. In most cases, the treatments can help bring the original skin tone[4]  back. As it does not affect the health in any way, people often opt out of getting treated. Due to the sensitivity in the genital area, the treatment methods can be harder to execute.

1. Light therapy

Under this treatment method, ultraviolet A, ultraviolet B or the excimer light will be used. The light therapy helps in regaining the pigment [13]  of the penis skin. The method is often amalgamated with psoralen medication, which may have an elevated response rate.

2. Medications

Ointments and topical creams can be effective in this reducing the prominence of vitiligo on the affected area. The ointments affect your body's immune response and include corticosteroid creams that are anti-inflammatory. Ointments that contain pimecrolimus[14]  or tacrolimus are also used.

These medications [15] are to be used only according to the doctor's recommendation.

3. Surgery

In the case of light therapy and medications being ineffective, the other option is surgery [16] . If the vitiligo has affected the foreskin, circumcision is an effective method. In other cases, skin grafting has to be done where the doctor will take small parts of skin from unaffected parts of your body and graft it to the affected area.

However, this is only applicable when the affected area is small in size. As skin grafting can be difficult to be done to a large area.

Also readAlopecia Barbae: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Complications

Penile vitiligo is not fatal or dangerous. The condition also does not affect your health or pose any complications in your sexual health as well. Individuals with penile vitiligo are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer, eye problems, and hearing problems [17] .

However, psychological and social problems have been linked with individuals with vitiligo. The condition can cause individuals to undergo stress and lack of confidence as the patches in the skin may affect their social life. That is, they can face bullying and mockery from other people, therefore causing the individuals to undergo a tremendous amount of stress.

View Article References
  1. [1] Halder, R. M., & Chappell, J. L. (2009, June). Vitiligo update. InSeminars in cutaneous medicine and surgery(Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 86-92).
  2. [2] Taïeb, A., & Picardo, M. (2009). Vitiligo.New England Journal of Medicine,360(2), 160-169
  3. [3] Osborne, G. E. N., Francis, N. D., & Bunker, C. B. (2000). Synchronous onset of penile lichen sclerosus and vitiligo.British Journal of Dermatology,143(1), 218-219.
  4. [4] Ameen, M., Exarchou, V., & Chu, A. C. (2001). Topical calcipotriol as monotherapy and in combination with psoralen plus ultraviolet A in the treatment of vitiligo.British Journal of Dermatology,145(3), 476-479.
  5. [5] Saha, M., Edmonds, E., Martin, J., & Bunker, C. B. (2009). Penile lymphoedema in association with asymptomatic Crohn’s disease.Clinical and Experimental Dermatology: Viewpoints in dermatology,34(1), 88-90.
  6. [6] Hann, S. K., & Lee, H. J. (1996). Segmental vitiligo: clinical findings in 208 patients.Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology,35(5), 671-674.
  7. [7] Akhtar, S., Gavalas, N. G., Gawkrodger, D. J., Watson, P. F., Weetman, A. P., & Kemp, E. H. (2005). An insertion/deletion polymorphism in the gene encoding angiotensin converting enzyme is not associated with generalised vitiligo in an English population.Archives of dermatological research,297(2), 94-98.
  8. [8] Kandil, E. (1970). Vitiligo–Response to 0.2% Betamethasone 17-Valerate in Flexible Collodion.Dermatology,141(4), 277-281.
  9. [9] Stevenson, C. J. (1981). Occupational vitiligo: clinical and epidemiological aspects.British Journal of Dermatology,105, 51-56.
  10. [10] Li, W., Xin, H., Ge, L., Song, H., & Cao, W. (2014). Induction of vitiligo after imiquimod treatment of condylomata acuminata.BMC infectious diseases,14(1), 329.
  11. [11] Van Dijk, F., Thio, H. B., & Neumann, H. A. M. (2006). Non-oncological and non-infectious diseases of the penis (penile lesions).eau-ebu update series,4(1), 13-19.
  12. [12] Ezzedine, K., & Silverberg, N. (2016). A practical approach to the diagnosis and treatment of vitiligo in children.Pediatrics,138(1), e20154126.
  13. [13] Halcin, C., Hann, S. K., & Kauh, Y. C. (1997). Vitiligo following the resolution of psoriatic plaques during PUVA therapy.International journal of dermatology,36(7), 534-536.
  14. [14] Köse, O., Riza Gür, A., Kurumlu, Z., & Erol, E. (2002). Calcipotriol ointment versus clobetasol ointment in localized vitiligo: an open, comparative clinical trial.International journal of dermatology,41(9), 616-618.
  15. [15] Li, W., Xin, H., Ge, L., Song, H., & Cao, W. (2014). Induction of vitiligo after imiquimod treatment of condylomata acuminata.BMC infectious diseases,14(1), 329.
  16. [16] van Geel, N., Ongenae, K., & Naeyaert, J. M. (2001). Surgical techniques for vitiligo: a review.Dermatology,202(2), 162-166.
  17. [17] Moss, T. R., & Stevenson, C. J. (1981). Incidence of male genital vitiligo. Report of a screening programme.Sexually Transmitted Infections,57(2), 145-146.

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