What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a skin disease characterized by loss of skin color or appearance of light or white patches on the skin due to abnormality of melanin producing cells called melanocytes. It can affect any skin type or any part of the body including hair, inside of mouth and even eyes. The extent and rate of color loss from vitiligo is unpredictable but it usually appears on sun-exposed areas, such as the hands, feet, arms, face and lips. Although it is not a life-threatening or contagious disorder but it can be embarrassing or stressful for the person.

vitiligo skin disorder

Causes of Vitiligo

Vitiligo occurs due to malfunctioning or death of the melanin-producing cells called melanocytes. Melanin is responsible for the color of skin, hair and eyes in a person. In their absence, skin becomes lighter or white. Although the exact cause of failure or death of these cells is not known but it may be related to:

• An auto-immune disorder in which body's immune system destroys the

• Family history

• A trigger event, such as sunburn, stress or exposure to industrial chemicals

 Symptoms of Vitiligo

• Skin discoloration

• Rapid pigment loss on several areas of the skin

• Premature whitening or graying of the hair on scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard

• Loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of mouth and nose (mucous membranes)

• Loss of or change in color of the inner layer of the eyeball (retina)

• Discolored patches around the armpits, navel, genitals, injury site, moles and rectum

• Alternate cycles of pigment loss and stability

Diagnosis of Vitiligo

As it is a skin disorder, a fair diagnosis can be made even on physical examination of the patient. This will be followed by complete history of the patient along with following tests:

• Wood lamp examination (black light)

• Skin biopsy

• Blood tests to rule out other disorders or to find associated disorders

• Eye examination to check for inflammation in the eye (uveitis)

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