Vitiligo is a disease where the immune system turns against itself (autoimmune disease) where immune cells of the body attack the color-producing (pigment-producing) cells to cause white patches on the skin, which may contain hairs that are white in color. It may be seen with other autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid disease, alopecia areata, diabetes mellitus, Addison disease, and myasthenia gravis. The way that vitiligo progresses varies greatly; it may remain in the area where it started (localized) or it may become more widespread.
The loss of pigment from hairs in the eyelash area accentuates the color loss of vitiligo.
Vitiligo is a condition which involves complete loss of melanin, the primary skin pigment. The cause of vitiligo is unknown but it appears to be an acquired condition and may appear at any age. The resulting lesions are white in comparison to the surrounding skin. Vitiligo may occur in the same areas on both sides of the face or it may be patchy. The typical vitiligo lesion is flat and depigmented, but maintains the normal skin texture.
Vitiligo is more commonly known as leucoderma, which simply means white (leuco) skin (derma), i.e. a skin disorder where it loses its normal coloration. It is also medically known as achromia, which means loss of color.
Basically, Vitiligo can hardly be called as a disease but a skin- disorder that has more social than medical significance, especially amongst the dark skin people. Due to retarded melanin formation, there is loss of pigmentation.
The Vitiligo sufferers are observed all over the world, including the white skin communities. However, epidemiologically most cases are recorded in India (8.8%) and Mexico. Males and females are affected equally, inclusive of children age group. It may begin at any age. Childhood vitiligo is not uncommon.
The exact cause for the pigmentary disorder remains unknown. However, there are theories suggesting autoimmune link, hormonal connection, genetic tendencies, etc. The familial incidence is almost 20 to 30%. Often observed in the family members. If the parents have Vitiligo, there are more chances of one developing the same. However, it is not a rule. At the same time, numerous cases of vitiligo do not have a relevant family history of Vitiligo.
The precipitating factors have been identified as due to pressure of tight clothes (such as on the waist) or certain occupational hazards such as wearing certain rubber hand gloves. Long term intake of certain drugs is found to produce the pigmentary disorder. In many cases, especially in children, we often have no clue why one develops vitiligo.
Like many disease conditions, the exact causation yet remains a mystery!
The typical appearance of Vitiligo is a milky while depigmented spot or spots. It may vary from a single white spot to multiple spots. The shape too is a variable. In some cases generalized de-pigmentation observed all over the body. It has a tendency to start as a single spot and gradually grow in size and number. It may present with a single or several spots on limbs or abdomen or back and then spreading to other parts of the body. Some cases showing affection of the mucocutaneous junctions such as finger-tips, corners of the mouth, private parts, around eyes. The spread of the disorder is usually slow and progressive. Symmetrical appearance on both the side of the body (say, on the legs, hands, etc.) is common. In rare cases one finds vitiligo spreading all over the body.
Associated Skin Disorders:
At times, you may find Vitiligo associated with one or more of the following conditions:
° Alopecia Areata (Loss of hair)
° Premature graying of the hair
° Lichen Planus
° Halo Naevus
Associated Systemic Disorders:
There are several systemic diseases (affecting the entire body system), which are at times associated with Vitiligo:
° Thyroid Disorders (Hypo and Hyperthyroidism)
° SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus)
° Pernicious Anemia
° Addison’s Disease
° Collegen Diseases
° Grave’s Disease
° Diabetes Mellitus