What is Vitiligo? An Overview


People with vitiligo often describe the condition as an emotional roller coaster. The emotional impact of vitiligo can be just as challenging to live with as the physical changes. People who have vitiligo frequently experience emotional distress and have a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to cope with the psychological impact of vitiligo. Many people find that talking with a therapist or joining a support group helps them deal with feelings of sadness, embarrassment and anger.

What is Vitiligo? An Overview

Vitiligo is a skin condition in which your skin loses pigment and color, leading to white patches on your body. It affects about 1% of the world’s population — about 70 million people — regardless of race or gender. While vitiligo doesn’t pose any health risks, it can affect a person’s self-image and social life.

Vitiligo occurs when melanocytes, the cells responsible for skin pigmentation, die or stop producing melanin — the pigment that gives your skin, hair and eyes color. The involved patches of skin become lighter or white. It isn’t known exactly what causes these cells to fail or die but, for reasons not yet understood, autoimmune diseases, such as hyper

What is Vitiligo?

The word vitiligo originates from the Latin word vitium, meaning “defect” or “fault.” It is also known as leukoderma, which means white skin.

Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses its pigment cells (melanocytes). This results in smooth, white patches of irregular shapes and sizes appearing on the skin. It affects all races equally, and both sexes are equally affected. In most cases, it first develops before age 20 but can affect people of any age.

It is estimated that 1 to 2 percent of the world’s population has vitiligo. However, this figure may be higher because many people with vitiligo do not seek treatment from a doctor or dermatologist. In fact, it is one of the most common causes for dermatologist consultation worldwide.

The UPMC Health System states that about 30 million people around the world have vitiligo. The condition affects 1 to 2 percent of people in both Western and non-Western countries, according to DermaNetwork.org. It also affects all races and genders equally and every age group from birth to old age can be affected.

Vitiligo is a skin condition in which the skin loses melanin, the pigment that determines the color of your skin, hair and eyes. The extent and rate of color loss from vitiligo is unpredictable. It can affect the skin on any part of your body. It may also affect hair and the inside of the mouth.

Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious. For some people, it causes embarrassment and stress.

The exact cause of vitiligo isn’t known. Some experts believe that a combination of autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors is involved. The disorder may result from the immune system destroying certain cells in your body that produce pigment (melanocytes). Normally these cells make melanin, which gives your skin its color and helps protect it from the sun. If you have vitiligo, white patches develop on your skin because there are not enough melanocytes to produce enough melanin in that area.

You may notice the first signs of vitiligo when pigment disappears around an injury or area of inflammation (koebnerization). Or you may see pigment loss in a particular spot in an otherwise normal area of

Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) in the skin, mucous membranes (tissues that line the inside of the mouth and nose and genital and rectal areas), and hair follicles are destroyed. As a result, white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body. The hair that grows in areas affected by vitiligo usually turns white. The inside of the mouth may also be involved. The extent and rate of color loss from vitiligo is unpredictable. It can affect the skin on any part of your body. It may also affect hair and the inside of the mouth.

Common Vitiligo Signs & Symptoms

Vitiligo is a skin condition that causes the loss of skin color in blotches. The extent and rate of color loss from vitiligo is unpredictable. It can affect the skin on any part of your body. It may also affect hair and the inside of the mouth.

Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) die or stop producing melanin — the pigment that gives your skin, hair and eyes color. The involved patches of skin become lighter or white.

Vitiligo affects people of all skin types. It may first appear at any age, but often appears before age 20. There’s no cure for vitiligo.*

Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses its pigment cells (melanocytes). Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious. It can be stressful or make you feel bad about yourself. Treatment for vitiligo focuses on restoring color to the white patches of skin. This often requires a combination of treatments and good sun protection.

The cause of vitiligo is not known, but doctors think an autoimmune disease may be involved. In this disease, the body destroys its own cells or tissues by mistake. Vitiligo may also run in families. There is no cure for vitiligo, but treatment can help to stop or slow the discoloration and make your skin look better.

Treatment may take several months before you see results and you must continue treatments to keep the color even across your skin and prevent new white patches from forming.*

What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a disease that results in depigmentation of parts of the skin. It occurs when melanocytes, the cells responsible for skin pigmentation, die or stop producing melanin—the pigment that gives your skin, hair and eyes color. The involved patches of skin become lighter or white. It can also affect the mucous membranes (such as the tissues inside your mouth and nose) and the eye. Generally, the depigmented patches first appear on sun-exposed areas, such as the hands, feet, arms, face and lips. Vitiligo may also affect hair and the inside of the mouth. However, some people develop vitiligo on only one part of their body. Sometimes it develops before age 20; however, appearance of new patches tends to stabilize over time.

It is not life threatening but it can have social implications and psychological effects. Medical treatment is available to help treat vitiligo but it doesn’t work for everyone. There are some self care measures you can take to reduce its impact on your life and improve your self esteem.


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