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Vitiligo Causes And Symptoms

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Vitiligo is defined as a chronic skin disease characterized by the appearance of white spots with precise contour on different body parts. These depigmented spots are caused by a destruction of melanocytes (the cells that are responsible for skin pigmentation). Depigmentation may be more or less important, and affected areas have variable sizes. The origin of disease yet unknown, but it is considered an autoimmune disease in which antibodies produced by the body attack and destroy its own melanocytes. Vitiligo first appears in the form of small depigmented spots that extend and grow in size over time. These changes in skin appearance usually leads stress and anxiety. The areas of ??skin affected by vitiligo have a high sensitivity to sunlight and it is therefore advisable to stay away from direct sunlight, as lack of pigment makes defenseless against solar radiation. As a result of sun exposure burns with hyperpigmented spots around may appear.

Hand Vitiligo

Hand Vitiligo

Vitiligo affects about 1% – 3% of the population and generally occurs before the age of 20  (about half of those affected) but vitiligo can affect children of any race or ethnic group. The skin on the back of the hands, face and armpits is more commonly affected. Vitiligo may occur in both sexes, from late childhood (9 to 12 years) to middle-aged adults.

Vitiligo Causes

The cause of this disease is unknown. It can accompany Addison’s disease (a rare endocrine disease, which consists of a hormone deficiency, characterized by weight loss, muscle weakness, low blood pressure and skin darkening whether or not it was exposed to sunlight), diabetes, pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency) and thyroid dysfunction.

Vitiligo cause theories are diverse. One theory states that vitiligo is a disease of the entire body caused by many factors, mainly by disorders arising in tissue nutrition and metabolism. White spots on the skin is only a warning, an external signal that announces a a more severe disturbance. In some people, it seems that an event (sunburn, a strong emotional shock or stress) led to the onset of vitiligo. On the other hand, there is no proof  that one of these factors are causes of vitiligo. Generally, vitiligo is often present along with another disease like those described above.

Vitiligo Symptoms

The main sign of disease is the appearance of white patches on the skin with well-defined shape. Although any region of the body can be affected by vitiligo, depigmentation occurs in particular:

  • On the genitals
  • In the armpits
  • On sun-exposed areas: hands, feet, face and lips
  • The areas subject to friction (knee)

Vitiligo seems to be more frequent in females but not statisticaly important. Vitiligo can occur anytime from birth to senescence although onset is generally observed between 10-30 years. Vitiligo rarely occurs in children or elderly persons and almost all cases of vitiligo are observed during early adolescence. Average age of onset is somewhere around 19 years. The most common form of vitiligo includes depigmentated macules or patches surrounded by healthy skin. Macules are milky white and well-defined. Lesions are not so obvious in white people, however they can highlighted after a Wood lamp examination.

Vitiligo patches look like hypopigmented or white macules, well demarcated, round, oval or may have a linear form. The edges may be convex, lesions increase centrifugal in time and range from mm to cm in diameter. Initial lesions occur more frequently on hands, feet and face, around the mouth and eyes



Lesions may be localized or generalized but the generalized form is more common. Localized vitiligo is limited to an area while generalized vitiligo is involving more than one area. In this situation macules can be found on both sides of the trunk, symmetrical or asymmetrical. Areas most affected are the patient’s face, scalp and neck. Many  vitiligo developing areas are zones of repeated trauma. Mucosal involvement is frequent in generalized vitiligo. Scalp skin vitiligo consists of localized spots of white or gray hair, but total depigmentation of the scalp can occur (leucotrichia). Scalp involvement is commonly followed by the eyebrows, pubic hair and underarm hair depigmentation. Leucotrichia indicates a bad prognosis for repigmentation as spontaneous repigmentation of depigmented hair does not occur