Vitiligo: Causes, Myths, and Facts

Vitiligo2Vitiligo (vit-uh-lie-go) also called ‘leucoderma’ is a condition in which there is a development of milky-white patches on the skin. Anyone can get this skin disorder. Millions of people of all races and ethnicities worldwide have Vitiligo. It occurs in 0.5-2% of the general population. Some well-known cases of vitiligo have occurred in celebrities such as Michael Jackson, supermodel Winnie Harlow, and comedian Steve Martin.

So what causes vitiligo? Vitiligo is usually seen on the skin but other areas such as the scalp, lips and genitals can also be affected. Patches of hair can turn white. It develops because color producing cells in our skin called melanocytes, die.

Scientists have not completely understood why these cells die. Multiple factors such as genetics, a weak immune system which attacks its own cells, and increased free radical-induced damage (oxidative stress) may be the cause. Those whose parents have vitiligo and associated autoimmune diseases are more likely to get it as compared to the general population, although in most cases there is no family history of the condition. Certain factors such as skin injury and severe sunburn can cause development of new patches in a predisposed individual as well.

There are several myths associated with the spread of vitiligo but the fact is that vitiligo is not contagious. People also think that it is caused by eating white foods and drinking too much milk which is also false. Certain prescribed medications can stop the spread of new vitiligo spots but is not guaranteed, as new spots may appear but recover as treatment proceeds. Although vitiligo is not life-threatening it is life-changing. Those afflicted with vitiligo and their families face social stigmatisation leading to low self-esteem, anxiety, embarrassment, anger and even serious depression.

The Division of Dermatology at Jamaica Hospital offers several services, including adult and pediatric dermatology, dermatologic and skin cancer surgery, and cosmetic dermatology. For an appointment, please call (718) 206- 6742.

How “Annual” Is Your Annual Physical?

HypertesionThinkstockPhotos-477722758A.  Yearly

B. Bi-Yearly

C. When I don’t feel good

D. I don’t do doctors


An annual exam is a good way of tracking your health progress.  Some of the benefits are:

  • Primary prevention
  • To identify risk factors for common chronic diseases
  • To detect disease that has no apparent symptoms (secondary prevention)
  • A way for the doctor to counsel people to promote healthy behavior
  • To update clinical data since your last check-up
  • To enhance the relationship betweenyou and your doctor

If you are interested in scheduling an exam, Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center is centrally located and has convenient hours.  Call 718-206-7001 for an appointment.



World Psoriasis Day – October 29 2015

October 29th has been designated  World Psoriasis Day by the International Federation of Psoriasis Association to raise awareness about this disease. It is estimated that worldwide there are 125 million people worldwide who have psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a chronic, reoccurring, immune related inflammatory disorder of the skin. It is believed to have a genetic component  which means it can run in families. The disease usually starts to appear in the younger years and continues into adulthood, and it affects men and women equally. There is no known cause other than it is triggered by a malfunctioning of the immune system.  Psoriasis is unsightly but is not contagious.

Psoriasis presents as reddish plaques on the skin with silvery scales. These lesions can be very painful and itchy. It can also affect the joints (psoriatic arthritis) which can cause physical and functional deformity. There is no cure for the disease, but treatments do exist that make the skin lesions less painful and less visible.
To make an appointment a dermatologist at Jamaica Hospital’s ambulatory care center  please call    718-206-7001.Psoriasis


ShinglesShingles is the term used for a skin rash that is caused by the herpes-zoster (varicella) virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has had chickenpox, and the symptoms have resolved the virus can lie dormant dormant in their nerve roots for years. In some cases it can reactivate and cause shingles.  Some of the factors that can cause the virus to become activated are stress, advanced age, exhaustion or a weakened  immune system.

This rash is very painful and can last for many weeks. It is most frequently located on one side of the body, usually it shows up on the abdomen, the back or the buttocks as a band or stripe of  fluid filled lesions that later are covered with scabs. They can also be found on the face and when they do, extra precautions must be taken so as to not affect the eye. Shingles isn’t contagious to people who have already had the chickenpox. There is the possibility of people contracting chickenpox if they come in contact with the open sores and  if they have never had it before,  however that risk is very low.

Signs and symptoms of shingles:

• Itching
• Red rash on one side of the body
• Pain
• Sensitive to the touch
• Headache
• Weakness
• Fluid filled blisters
• Tingling sensation
• Exhaustion
• Fever

Symptoms will last for several weeks, sometimes months. There isn’t a cure for shingles but a physician will usually prescribe medications to make the symptoms less intense. Antiviral medication will shorten the length of time that the symptoms will be present. Medication for pain will also help.  People with shingles also get some relief by using certain skin creams, oatmeal baths, and cool compresses while the skin rash is active.
There is a vaccine for chickenpox which is given to children and to adults who have never had the disease. There is also a shingles vaccine that people who have had chickenpox can be given. It doesn’t guarantee that a person won’t develop shingles but can reduce the chances of developing complications. To learn more about vaccines for chickenpox or shingles please make an appointment with a physician at Jamaica Hospital by calling  718-206-7001.

Rare but True – Can You be Allergic to the Cold ?

Every winter people complain that they need to be in a warm climate because they are “allergic” to the cold. While we think most are just trying to dramatize the effects of the cold weather in reality, there are some people who actually are allergic to the cold. The condition known as “Cold Urticaria” is brought on by exposure to the cold. It is caused by the body’s release of histamine i to the blood stream. the same chemical that gets released during an allergic reaction. This condition may be either an inherited trait or due to a virus.
Some of the signs and symptoms are:
• Reddish hives on skin that was exposed to the cold
• Hands that swell when they come in contact with cold objects
• Swelling of the lips, tongue  and throat when touched by cold liquids
• Heart palpitations or fainting might occur in extreme cases.
• Headaches, fever and joint pain.
The effects of this allergic occurs when the temperature drops below 39 degrees but can also present  at higher temperatures. The condition is usually limited to the part of the body that has been exposed but can have a full body effect if a person goes swimming in cold water or if they aren’t properly dressed in cold weather. One of the ways that it is diagnosed is by placing an ice cube on the skin for five minutes to see if there are any signs of a rash.
Treatment options include taking antihistamines, which will help ease the symptoms, avoiding extreme cold and making sure that you don’t leave areas of the body exposed in cold weather .
People who have cold urticaria should see a dermatologist to obtain prescription medications which may help to ease the symptoms. To schedule an appointment with a dermatologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call 718-206-7001.Goose Bumps

Unusual but True – Werewolf Syndrome

werewolf-118321409 V2Werewolf Syndrome does exist but it is not what Hollywood or science fiction depicts it to be. Werewolf syndrome is medically known as hypertrichosis. It is a disorder that is characterized by excessive body hair. Typically the entire body with the exception of the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet are covered in dense hair, which can resemble fur.  In some cases hair growth can be localized to a specific body part such as the back, elbows or ears.

Hypertrichosis can be classified into three main subcategories: congenital hypertrichosis terminalis, Naevoid hypertrichosis and congenital hypertrichosis lanuginosa.

  • Congenital hypertrichosis terminalis- Is often associated with gingival hyperplasia, which causes those that are afflicted to have very few teeth or soft voices.
  • Naevoid hypertrichosis – Symptoms may include excessive beard growth (men and women), a heavy unibrow, hairy ears and in some cases with underlying spina bifida-a tail on the lower back.
  • Congenital hypertrichosis lanuginosa- This form of hypertrichosis is extremely rare and is characterized by excessive hair at birth. There have only been about 50 cases reported globally since the middle ages.

Some possible conditions believed to cause hypertrichosis are metabolic disorders or genetic disorders caused by spontaneous mutations. The recommended treatment for this condition is hair removal because it is usually considered a cosmetic problem.

Sun Tan Savvy

summer tan picBronzed, or tanned skin comes from the sun activating a color pigment in the top layer of your skin, the color only lasts between six to 10 days.  Due to the skins natural turnover of cells, prolonging you tan takes work.

Some tips to maintain your summer glow are:

Exfoliate – The night before your lying in the sun to ensure that your skin prepped for tanning.  Dry skin can lead to peeling and, in some cases an uneven tan.  Slough away dead skin cells with a gentle exfoliator.  It is easy to create your own body scrubs by combining a few heaping spoonful’s of rock salt with essential oils or your regular olive oil from the kitchen.

Protect – Wearing sunscreen is vital when exposed to the sun, not only to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, but also if you want a long-lasting tan.  Wearing sunscreen will protect damaged skin from peeling off more easily. Make swure to opt for a sunscreen with a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) and re-apply throughout the day.

Hydrate – Water helps extend the life of your skin cells, so drink as much as possible.  Melons, cucumbers and celery are also high in water content and make the perfect skin-friendly snack this summer.

Moisturize – In addition to drinking lots of water, it’s also important to keep the peeling at bay with a daily dose of moisturizer.

While tanning, keep in mind that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.  Exposure to the sun, without the benefit of sunscreen increases the risk of melanoma.

How Much Sweat is Normal ?

The amount of sweat that a person produces varies from person to person and is dependent on the activity a person is doing. A person that works in a climate controlled environment is going to sweat less than a person working out in a gym or doing manual labor. Excess sweating is called hyperhidrosis and this occurs when a person is sweating more than what might be considered normal. There is no quantifiable number that can be associated with excess sweating but a person who sweats through their clothes in an environment where it isn’t routine for heavy sweating, should be evaluated. Certain people sweat excessively due to the medications they are taking, sometimes there may be an infection that the body is trying to fight, and some people have a family history of excessive sweating.
A simple way to treat perspiration is by using an over the counter anti-perspirant. In more severe cases a physician may prescribe medication that will help to control excess sweating and in very severe cases there are procedures that can be performed that will help control the perspiration.
If you think that you may be sweating excessively, contact your physician and have a thorough exam performed. You can schedule an appointment with a doctor at Jamaica Hospital by calling 718-206-7001.Sweat

What Are Keloid Scars?

Keloid scars occur when the body responds aggressively to an injury to the skin. Damage to the skin can be the result of a cut, scrape, burn, piercing, or surgery.

ThinkstockPhotos-451889141Keloids are usually pink or red and are raised above the normal skin surface. They are different from other scars in that they have the ability to stretch beyond the original boundary of the wound. They develop most often on the chest, back, shoulders, and earlobes and can become painful, itchy, and in extreme cases, even affect muscle function.

Doctors do not know why certain individuals develop keloid scars and some do not, but research suggests that some people’s skin is unable to identify and correctly respond to the damage at the site of the wound. Keloid scars can be developed by anyone but they are much more common in those with darker colored skin. The tendency to form keloids sometimes seems to run in families.

Treatment options include surgery to remove the scar, steroid injections, or silicone sheets to flatten the scar. Smaller keloids can be treated using cryotherapy (freezing therapy using liquid nitrogen).

The best keloid cure is to prevent one before it starts. People who are prone to keloid scars should not undergo cosmetic surgery or get piercings because chances are another keloid will develop. There’s no guarantee that a keloid will not develop after an injury, but there are steps that can be taken to aid in the prevention.

At the initial period of injury firm pressure should immediately be placed on the wound. This will help to stop the bleeding so that your body can begin the healing process. The wound should be cleaned with cool running water and mild soap to rid the wound from any dirt or debris. Keep the wound covered with a bandage to keep out bacteria and other toxins. Silicone gels are very effective for this because they form a barrier on the skin locking in moisture while keeping out germs.