Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that leads to loss of skin color and the formation of patches of depigmentation all over the skin. The areas of skin that develop discoloration typically get larger with time. The skin condition can affect the skin in any area of the body. Vitiligo can also affect the inside of the mouth and the hair causing discoloration and leaving uneven patches. In general, the color of the skin and hair is dependent on the amount and activity of the melanin pigment in the body. The condition of vitiligo develops when the cells responsible for the production of melanin stop functioning or die.
However, vitiligo affects individuals of all skin colors and types but it might be more recognizable in people with darker skin tones. Although the condition is neither contagious nor life-threatening. In fact, it can be sometimes stressful for a person or make them feel insecure or bad about themselves. There are various treatments for vitiligo that might help in restoring color to the discolored skin patches but it does not avoid the recurrence or continued loss of skin color. In the case of vitiligo as a skin disorder, there is the appearance of smooth white areas known as patches or macules on a person’s skin.
The discoloration typically starts on the forearms, face, hands, and feet. There is almost 1% of the population all over the globe suffers from the skin disorder vitiligo. Vitiligo results in the appearance of smooth white areas known as macules either less or more than 5mm area patches on an individual’s skin. If a person has vitiligo on a particular skin area having hair as well then that hair might also lose pigment and turn white. Vitiligo is a degenerative skin disorder in which the melanocytes that are responsible for producing melanin pigment suffer destruction by the body’s immune system.
Vitiligo typically starts with a few tiny white spots that might gradually spread all over the body during the course of several months. In fact, vitiligo usually starts to develop on the forearms, feet, face, and hands but it can appear on any body part including the mucous membranes lining the nose, mouth, rectal areas, inner ears, eyes, and genital. However, the larger patches tend to spread and widen, but typically they remain in the exact spot for years. The location of tiny macules switches and shifts with time as some areas of the skin lose and attain their pigments again.
In addition, vitiligo differs in the amount of skin area that suffers because some people are experiencing few depigmented areas while others have a widespread skin color loss. Vitiligo develops in almost 1% or slightly more of the people throughout the world. Vitiligo affects all gender and races equally. Although vitiligo might develop in anyone at any life span it most commonly develops in people aging 10 to 30 years. Moreover, vitiligo rarely develops in the very old or very young. It is also important to understand that vitiligo is a long-term medical condition that makes discolored skin patches more prone to sunburn. (1)
Vitiligo can also sometimes appear where there are hair root including your scalp as well. The loss of melanocytes functioning can lead to a lack of melanin in a person’s skin which can turn the hair white or grey in the affected area. Vitiligo often begins as a pale patch of skin that slowly turns completely white. The center of a skin patch might appear slightly pink at the beginning rather than white. The edges of the skin patch might be irregular or smooth. The pale skin patches are sometimes inflamed and red or there is some hyperpigmentation resulting in brownish discolored patches. (2)
However, vitiligo does not develop any discomfort in the affected skin area such as dryness. But there is occasional itching at the affected skin patches. The condition and symptoms of vitiligo differ from person to person. Some patients only get smaller, white patches while others get huge white patches that meet up across bigger areas of the skin. Although there is no way in which we can predict how much skin can suffer from vitiligo. In fact, the white patches that were formally pale are generally permanent.
The body parts that most commonly suffer from the skin disorder of vitiligo include:
- Mouth and eyes
- Wrists and fingers
- Inside the mouth