Vitiligo is a skin condition, in which the skin loses its color in blotches. Vitiligo can cause color loss to different extents. The condition may affect skin from any part of the body. It may even affect your hair, the eyes and inside of the mouth. Melanin is a very important element that determines the color of skin, hair and eyes. If cells producing melanin die or somehow stop working, then vitiligo happens.
Vitiligo can affect all types of skins. It is not a life-threatening or contagious disease. The problem is more prominent in people who have darker skin. Even though it is not life-threatening, but it has a tremendous psychological impact on the patient as it makes the patient feel bad. Vitiligo can be controlled, but there is no cure for it.
The main symptom of vitiligo is the loss of color or pigment. As a result, light or white patches are seen on the skin. The discoloration initially shows up in areas which are sun exposed. You will see the symptoms on feet, hands, face, arms and lips.
Some of the most common vitiligo signs are-
- Skin discoloration
- Premature graying or whitening of the hair present on eyebrows, eyelashes and scalp.
- Loss of color of the mucous membranes. These are the tissues that are found inside of your mouth and nose.
- Loss of color of the retina or the inner layer of the eyeball. Sometimes color changes are also seen
- Areas around armpits, navel, genitals and rectum may show discoloration
Vitiligo can affect your body at any age, but most commonly it is seen before 20. Based on the type of vitiligo, the discolored patches may appear on different parts of your body or only one side or part of your body. If it covers different parts of your body, it is known as generalized vitiligo. It is the most common type. The patches progress from the affected parts to corresponding body areas. If the vitiligo discolored patches are seen on only one side or part of your body, it is known as segmental vitiligo. It generally appears at the younger stage. After progressing for some time, it stops.
If the vitiligo is seen on one or only a few areas of the body, it is called as localized vitiligo.
It is not possible to predict the possible spreading the disease. Sometimes they may stop without any treatment at all. In most of the cases, the loss of pigment spreads from one part to another and covers the whole body.
Causes of vitiligo
The main cause of vitiligo is the non-availability of melanin forming cells. These cells are known as melanocytes. If they die or they stop producing melanin, then the affected skin creates patches of skin which are light or white. It is not yet known why the cells die or fail to produce melanin.
It may be due to
- A family history or heredity
- The disorder due to which the immune system attacks and destroys the melanocytes present in the skin
- Due to a trigger event such as stress, sunburn or exposure to industrial chemicalsheredity
Vitiligo may result in different complications. People who suffer from vitiligo are in a high-risk position of
- Social or psychological distress
- Sunburn and skin cancer
- Eye problems, such as inflammation of the iris (iritis)
- Hearing loss
- Side effects due to treatment, such as dry skin and itching