Vitiligo (White Spots)
Vitiligo is a skin condition in which there is a loss of pigment from areas of skin, resulting in irregular white patches that feel like normal skin. This can occur at any location on the body and in multiple areas, in fact most people affected by vitiligo experience pigment loss at various places
Melanin is the primary determinant of skin color and is also found in hair and pigment tissue in the iris of the eye. The cells that form pigment are melanocytes and when they are damaged and destroyed, the skin’s color is affected. Vitiligo is caused by the loss of pigment due to this destruction and although it affects all races equally, it is more noticeable in dark-skinned people. The cause for this destruction is unknown, however it is thought to possibly be an autoimmune disease, in which the body mistakenly attacks its own pigment cells.
Vitiligo commonly affects areas on the skin that are exposed to sun, in body folds such as the armpits and behind the legs, previous injured area, around moles, or body orifices such as the ears. It is rare for pigment to return once the white patches have developed. Vitiligo can also affect the eyes, skin, and hair.
Only 1 to 2 percent of the American population experiences vitiligo, which means an estimated 2 to 4 million Americans have the condition. Oftentimes, it develops early in life between the ages of 10 to 30 years ago. Very rarely do people develop the order after the age of 40.
Your doctor can usually make the diagnosis of vitiligo during a physical examination. There is no known way to prevent or cure vitiligo. However, several methods, including cosmetics, re-pigmentation using UV light therapy, steroid creams, depigmentation of unaffected skin areas, and skin grafting, can be used to improve the appearance of skin severely affected by vitiligo.