One man's recovery from vitiligo
One of the best parts of being a #vitiligoblogger is the sense of being part of a global community of people who love to share their experiences. So many of the comments and emails I receive – as well as the forums and support groups I visit - are full of mutual encouragement and empathy. There is something about the experience of living with vitiligo that seems to increase our compassion and understanding of others who also have the condition and makes us all want to help each other. This seems to be just as true of vitiligo sufferers who have recovered their skin colour as those who are still living with their white patches.
One example of this was an email I received the other day from a complete stranger – a lovely guy who contacted me via my website – who wanted to share his story and was kind enough to give his permission for me to publish it in this blog. This is Taylor Vaughan's experience of developing, and then recovering from, vitiligo...
As a child, I believe around the age of 7-8yrs old, I noticed several stark white patches on my shins. They slowly over time grew in size and then I noticed other areas including my right elbow, spots on my forearms, a circular spot on my chest, the finger tips where my nails begin. The spot on my elbow grew to the size of a half dollar and the spots on my shins became large enough I stopped wearing shorts. The spots seemed to stop growing in size when I started high school but they were so noticeable it controlled my life. I would look at magazines at these pictures of people with more than half of their bodies white due to the loss of pigment and I feared I would look the same someday.
So I decided to begin lifting weights. My reason was that if I was going to look like the pictures I had seen then I was at least going to be someone who was huge to combat the comments people had already made and future comments. I gained 20lbs or of muscle over the course of my freshman the following summer. I would find myself purposely sun burning my skin in order to redden the white areas to make them less noticeable. My junior year I messed around with testosterone because, even with constant weight training, I was still a scrawny guy. I went from 115 lbs. to 135 lbs. But stopped there. So, at that time 20 years ago steroids were easy to get and not really controlled. By the end of my senior year and into my first year of college I had gained about 40 more pounds of mostly muscle and some fat. I was about 175 lbs. going into college.
However I had noticed that the spots on my shins had started to freckle up with pigment. I was so happy, and had hopes that maybe they would continue to regiment and I would for once be a normal kid that didn’t worry about people seeing my spots.
I continued to lift and take testosterone and by the end of my junior year of college I was not only a large guy, about 210 lbs. and lots of muscle but my white spots had 90% filled in and gone away. I continued to lift and take testosterone through the end of college and graduated at 225 lbs. and 100% free from my vitiligo.
I married and later began work and stopped taking steroids. I stayed around 200 lbs. and still am to this day at age 40 and still remain vitiligo free. My point to this story is 2 years ago I was feeling fatigued, more than usual so I had my doctor check my hormones, thyroid etc. The results were my testosterone levels were close to zero, he said they were at the level expected out of an 80 year old. Now I don’t know if my taking testosterone had shut down my own production or if I had low levels from childhood. I have read stories about vitiligo and low RBC counts and steroids raise your blood counts so I am wondering if taking steroids raised my blood counts and/or if I had low hormone levels and didn’t know it as a child and these low levels had some type of influence on my development of Vitiligo.
I just feel that this may be something that isn’t even considered since checking adult male hormones is just becoming something that is seen as a problem. I would however suggest that anyone who has vitiligo at least have their blood counts and hormone levels, mainly testosterone levels, checked because those are the only 2 things that I personally did to alter anything physiologically with my body other than weight training. I tried every vitamin and home remedy that I could find prior to this and nothing changed it.
I just feel I needed to share my story and I certainly don’t condone taking steroids as now they are considered a controlled drug and highly watched etc. My physician prescribes testosterone for me and checks my levels every 4 months and only gives me enough to stay in my normal level. He thinks I shut my own production down by taking testosterone at a young age so I suppose I will never know if I simply had low levels my whole life or if I caused them. He said I will have to be on it the rest of my life with constant monitoring and testing. So I certainly wouldn’t take anything without working with a doctor.
Maybe there will be studies on vitiligo and the correlation to hormones and blood count levels in the future that might help prevent and cure this devastating disease.
Id like to thank Taylor for allowing me to publish his story and photo. He even offered to have his email address published but, to preserve his privacy, I felt it might be better to say that if anyone would like to get in touch with him just let me know via this site and I will gladly pass it on.
Taylor's story of recovery is completely different from my own and just goes to show how many different factors can be involved in the onset of vitiligo and also in its cure.
If the subject of how #hormones can affect pigmentation interests you, here are a few links for you to follow:
A vitiligo blogger since 2011. My name is Caroline. I had vitiligo for nearly 50 years before finding an effective treatment. I created this blog to share my experiences with others affected by this skin condition.