Vitiligo is a chronic skin disease that causes loss of pigment, resulting in irregular pale or white patches of skin.
Common areas of the skin losing pigment are the face, lips, hands, arms, legs, and genital areas. Vitiligo occurs when the melanocytes die or are unable to function.
However, the precise cause of condition is complex and not fully understood. Today, about 0.5 to 1 percent of the world’s population has the disorder.
Most of the people who have vitiligo develop it before age 40; half the people develop it before their 20th birthday.
There are at least three theories about the underlying mechanism the complaint:
- Nerve endings in the skin release a chemical that is toxic to the melanocytes
- Melanocytes simply self-destruct
- It is a type of autoimmune disease in which the immune system targets the body's cells and tissues
There are three main types of vitiligo:
- Generalized Pattern
- Segmental Pattern
- Focal Pattern
The skin disorder, the ailment is an autoimmune disease that can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, and ethnicity.
In this pigmentation disorder, the melanocytes (cells that make pigment) in the skin are destroyed, causing white patches to appear on the skin.
These patches can appear anywhere on the body, especially on areas that are more exposed to the sun, such as hands, arms, feet, face, and neck.
There are mainly three patterns of Vitiligo, and the most common one is Generalized Pattern. Generalized Pattern is listed as a type, and is proportional on both sides of the body.
The skin condition which is the malfunctioning or loss of cells, called melanocytes, which give color to the skin.
The loss of melanocytes results in smooth, white patches in the middle of the usually pigmented skin. Vitiligo, or leucoderma, is a common skin disorder, which is often inherited and can affect anyone anywhere.
There are two main types of leucoderma patterns: segmental and non-segmental (generalized). The non-segmental pattern is widespread among people and causes depigmentation to occur symmetrically on both sides of the body, whereas in Segmental Pattern, depigmented patches develop on only one side of the body.
Focal Pattern is the rarest pattern. This skin disorder causes smooth white patches to appear on the skin due to the malfunctioning or the loss of melanocytes (cells that make pigment).
In Focal Pattern, the depigmentation of skin is limited to one or only a few areas. The Focal Pattern and segmental leucoderma do not spread and remain localized to one part of the body, whereas generalized vitiligo is likely to spread to different parts of the body.
There is no such cure for the condition. However, herbal treatments have proved to be fruitful over the years.
Patches often occur symmetrically across both sides on the body. Occasionally small areas of the body may repigment as melanocytes recolonize them.
The disorder may also come about by stress that affects the immune system. The disturbed immune system may lead the body to react and start losing skin pigment.
The ailment on the scalp may affect the color of the hair, leaving white patches or streaks and so affect facial and body hair.
When the pigment-producing cells, the ‘melanocytes’ are attacked and destroyed, it may affect the skin, mucous membranes, eyes, inner ear or hairs leaving white patches.
Unfortunately, a person with leucoderma will have to deal with this condition for the rest of their life, because there is no drug in existence that will completely heal this condition. However, there is some good news; there are therapies in existence that can slow down the de-pigmentation of the skin.
The usual type of leucoderma is called ‘Vitiligo Vulgaris,' is an autoimmune disorder during which the bodies own immune system turns on itself.
Specific white blood cells cause the death of melanocytes. People with complaint are also somewhat more prone to other autoimmune diseases. These diseases may include alopecia areata, autoimmune thyroid disorders, Addison’s disease, pernicious anemia, and diabetes mellitus.
Half the patients first notice vitiligo before they turn 20. The disease often starts appearing on the hands, feet or face, and frequently pigment loss is progressive.
However, the degree of pigment loss can vary within each patch. The areas of minor injury or sunburn are more prone to it. There is some evidence suggesting that Vitiligo is a combination of auto-immune, genetic, and environmental factors.
Typical condition shows an area of milky-white skin, but there may be different shades of pigment in a patch, or a border of darker skin may circle an area of light skin.
Vitiligo often begins with a rapid loss of pigment, leaving marks and may continue until the process stops. However, cycles of pigment loss may continue indefinitely.
The marks may grow, shrink, or remain constant in size. It is rare for skin pigment in vitiligo patients to return on its own and to its standard.
Some people who believe they no longer have the disease have lost all their pigment and no longer have marks of contrasting skin color.
Although the patient’s skin is all one color, they still have the condition. The location of vitiligo affected skin changes over time; some patches may re-pigment, and others may remain affected.
Most people with the condition are in good general health. But, it may occur with other autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disease. The duration and severity of pigment loss differ with each person.
Light-skinned people usually notice the contrast between vitiligo affected areas and suntanned skin in the summer. There is no way to predict how much pigment an individual will lose; however, those with severe cases can lose pigment all over the body.
Though the change in appearance caused by the condition can affect a person’s emotional and psychological well-being, yet there are several strategies help them cope with this disease.
It is essential to find a good doctor who takes the disorder seriously and provides emotional support. Individuals need to let their doctors know if they are feeling depressed.
Doctors and other mental health professionals should be able to help patients deal with depression. Of the interest is the fact that some people with vitiligo have found cosmetics helpful overcoming their sadness and embarrassment.
Cosmetics that cover the white patches may improve your appearance and help them feel better about themselves. But, before finding the product that works best, you may need to experiment with several brands of concealing cosmetics.
It is also strongly suggested that patients should try to learn as much as possible about the disorder and treatment choices so that they can participate in making important decisions about medical care.