Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hypopigmentation in an African Child

Katie Ratzan, a third year Dartmouth Medical School student serving as a Schweitzer Fellow at the Schweitzer Hospital in Gabon, Africa, would like help and advice.
" I would like to ask your help with a six year old girl who presented to our clinic at the Hopital Schweitzer, with her father & aunt. The child has a recent onset of hypopigmentation of the left side of her face & neck. As of six to seven weeks ago, her skin was entirely normal. This change in skin color progressed over the past six weeks. It is asymptomatic. She has had no constitutional symptoms. She was not sick during the months/weeks prior to the color change, did not take any medications prior to the skin change, did not travel, did not have an accident with any sort of chemical, does not use anything on her face (i.e. cremes, etc.). No one else around her has anything like this. No one else around her is sick. She's never had this before. She now puts some sort of indigenous healing/darkening creme on the spots on the back of her neck, which is why that is darker than the areas of her face.

By history, this started on her cheek and moved toward her nose. It stops abruptly at midline. It has since spread to her neck and scalp. It's macular/patch-like depending on the confluence of abutting lesions. There is no involvement of mucous membrance (mouth & vagina are normal). She has no trouble with vision, taste, hearing, and her neuro exam (my brief version of it which essentially only tested sensation and gross motor) was normal.

Questions from Katie:
1. Does anyone think this is anything other than vitiligo?
2. Is this segmental vitiligo, and if so what special significance does this have?
3. What therapy would be appropriate for a child like this in this setting?
4. What is known of the psychological and social implications of such hypopigmentation in a girl in this setting?

Thank you,