Vitiligo is a condition that affects a person's pigmentation. Without melanocytes, the skin loses its pigment and starts to show lighter patches of skin.
These patches also appear near mucous membranes as well as on the retina. Hair growing on areas that are affected by the condition even sometimes turn white as well.
There is no one definite cause for the condition, and doctors and experts have a variety of theories as to why the condition occurs and to whom it happens.
The most widely accepted reason today is that this condition is an autoimmune one. It means that the person's immune system goes against his body cells, tissues or organs.
One other theory is that the pigmentation cells, melanocytes, self-destruct. Some people suffering from the condition have reported that their vitiligo got triggered by situations such as sunburn or stress. There are no scientific findings to back these claims just yet.
Around 1 percent of the whole population, or somewhere roughly 65 million people develop the condition. Around half of that number experience the condition before they turn 20.
The other half develop the condition before they turn 40. Vitiligo does not choose sex or race, but it is more noticeable for people who are dark skinned.
The condition has been found to be common in people who also suffer from certain autoimmune diseases.
For example, a person suffering from hyperthyroidism, adrenocortical insufficiency, alopecia areata, pernicious anemia and the like are more prone to suffering from vitiligo.
The condition is also hereditary and runs in families. Thirty percent of those who suffer from the disorder have at least one family member experiencing the same situation.
What Are The Symptoms?
The symptoms of the condition are simple. The person first starts to notice some white patches on the skin.
These white patches are usually more common in areas exposed to the sun such as feet, hands, arms, lips, and face.
Depigmentation can also occur in the armpits, the inguinal area, arms and around mucous membranes.
Vitiligo can show up in a variety of patterns. One pattern is the focal pattern, where the depigmentation limits itself to just a few areas.
Segmental pattern, on the other hand, is when the patches are just on one side of the body. Generalized pattern, on the other hand, is the most common. In this pattern, the skin depigmentation occurs somewhat on both sides of the body.
People suffering from depigmentation also suffer other symptoms aside from just skin whitening. People with vitiligo may also experience the graying of the hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and the beard as well. People who have dark skin may also notice skin lightening inside their mouths.
One can tell if one has the condition by a simple visual test, but a doctor will do a medical examination just to be sure. The doctor will also need to do some lab tests as well as gather medical history.
Once the doctor diagnoses the treatment, he or she will be able to assess and to suggest possible treatments for the condition.
While there is no particular magic pill for vitiligo, there are treatments for it that can reduce the severity of the appearance of the depigmented patches.
These therapies can either require the need of prescription medication, such as topical steroid treatments or herbal treatments.
Total body depigmentation whitens all the normal colored skin for it to match the parts which are white.
Most treatments for vitiligo take a long time for it to work. It may take several months before the procedure to produces results, but still, it is worth taking time and effort to follow on through with the treatments consistently to achieve the desired results.