Vitiligo is a disease in which the pigment cells of the skin, melanocytes, are destroyed in certain areas. Symptoms and signs of vitiligo include:

  • Loss of skin color in the form of depigmented, or white,    
  • Patches of skin in any location on the body.  
  • Vitiligo can be focal and localized to one area, or it may affect several different areas on the body. 

The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown, although most experts believe that it is an autoimmune condition in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys certain cells within the body. Most people who have  vitiligo will develop the condition prior to age 40; about half develop it before age 20.

Vitiligo may have a genetic component, as the condition tends to run in families. Vitiligo is sometimes  associated with other medical conditions, including thyroid dysfunction. There is no way to determine  if vitiligo will spread or remain confined to one location. Vitiligo is not painful and does not have significant health consequences; however, it can have  emotional and psychological consequences. Some medical treatments can reduce the severity of the condition, but it can be difficult to cure. There is no known way to prevent  vitiligo. There are no  proven  remedies to cure vitiligo,

What causes vitiligo?

The cause is not known. Vitiligo may be an autoimmune disease. These diseases happen when your immune system mistakenly attacks some part of your own body. In vitiligo, the immune system may destroy the melanocytes in the skin. It is also possible that one or more genes may make a person more likely to get the disorder.Some researchers think that the melanocytes destroy themselves. Others think that a single event such as sunburn or emotional distress can cause vitiligo. But these events have not been proven to cause vitiligo.

Who is affected by vitiligo?

Many people develop it in their twenties, but it can occur at any age.

The disorder affects all races and both sexes equally, however, it is more noticeable in people with dark skin.People with certain autoimmune diseases (such as hyperthyroidism) are more likely to get vitiligo than people who don't have any autoimmune diseases. Scientists do not know why vitiligo is connected with these diseases. However, most people with vitiligo have no other autoimmune disease. Vitiligo may also run in families. Children whose parents have the disorder are more likely to develop vitiligo. However, most children will not get vitiligo even if a parent has it.

What are the symptoms of vitiligo? 

White patches on the skin are the main sign of vitiligo. These patches are more common in areas where the skin is exposed to the sun. The patches maybe on the hands, feet, arms, face, andlips. Other common areas for white patches are:

  • The armpits and groin (where the leg meets the body) 
  • Around the mouth 
  • Eyes Nostrils Navel 
  • Genitals 
  • Rectal areas

People with vitiligo often have hair that turns gray early. Those with dark skin may notice a loss of color inside their mouths.

Will the white patches spread?

There is no way to tell if vitiligo will spread. For some people, the white patches do not spread. But often the white patches will spread to other areas of the body. For some people, vitiligo spreads slowly, over many years. For other people, spreading occurs quickly. Some people have reported more white patches after physical or emotional stress. 

How is vitiligo diagnosed? 

The doctor will use a family and medical history, physical exam, and tests to diagnose vitiligo. The doctor may ask questions such as: Do you have family members with vitiligo? Do you or family members have any autoimmune diseases? Did you have a rash, sunburn, or other skin problem before the white patches appeared? Did you have some type of stress or physical illness? Did your hair turn gray before age 35? Are you sensitive to the sun?The doctor will do a physical exam to rule out other medical problems.

Tests might include: 

Taking a small sample  (biopsy) of the affected skin to be examined 

How is vitiligo treated? 

Treatment may help make the skin to look more even. 

The choice of treatment depends on:

  • The number of white patches 
  • How widespread the patches are 
  • The treatment the person  prefers to use.
  • Some treatments are not right for everyone. 
  • Many treatments can have unwanted side effects. 
  • Treatments can take a long time, and sometimes they don't work.
  • Current treatment options for vitiligo include medical, surgical, and other treatments. 
  • Most treatments are aimed at restoring color to the white patches of skin.Medical treatments include: 
  • Medicines (such as creams)  that you put on the skin Medicines that you take by  mouth A treatment that uses  medicine plus ultraviolet A (UVA) light (PUVA)

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