Vitiligo is a skin disorder that presents with patches of discoloration of the skin, hair or eyes. Usual signs are irregular white patches but the skin feels normal to touch .The pigment (melanin) that determines the color of skin, eyes and hair is missing in these individuals. The skin cells which manufacture melanin for some unknown reason fail to make any melanin and this produces Vitiligo. The discolored skin patches may appear anywhere on the body.
Close to 2 million Americans have some degree of Vitiligo and the disorder affects all races and both genders equally. It is more prominent in dark skinned people as these white patches are very obvious. The condition is disfiguring and cosmetically unattractive.
Vitiligo generally starts off as a small patch but gradually gets bigger. Vitiligo is not harmful medically, but it can affect a person's emotional and psychological well being and self esteem, especially if it affects visible areas of the body, such as face, hands, arms and feet. You cannot catch Vitiligo just by touching another person with the disorder.
Today, we have no cure for Vitiligo. All treatments are based on arresting the condition from getting worse
Vitiligo can present with the following features:
- White patches of skin
- Premature whitening of hair on the scalp, eyelashes or face
- Loss of color on the insides of the mouth
- Loss or change of color of the inner eye
Although any part of the body may be affected by Vitiligo, discoloration is first seen in the sun exposed areas of the body. These include the face, arms, neck and chest. Vitiligo is first seen between the 2nd -3rd decade of life and may either appears in one part of the body or be generalized
The natural course of Vitiligo is difficult to predict. Sometimes the patches stop forming without treatment. In other cases, pigment loss can involve most of the surface of your skin. The cause is unknown but believed to be autoimmune (your own body's cell turn into rogue cells and start to attack the melanin producing cells)