About Vitiligo

Vitiligo VrfVitiligo (pronounced vit-ill-EYE-go) is a generally unpredictable skin disease, which results in a loss of inherited skin color over the lifetime. Vitiligo is a non-lethal and it does not cause any organic harm, but it has a devastating effect on social life of the affected person and their family.

Vitiligo is a life-long condition and it’s unlikely that you will ever be completely free of it. Vitiligo isn't contagious, so you can't catch it from other people or pass it on. It tends to spread over time, often for no apparent reason. The good news, a proper treatment protocol may effectively put it under control and reduce appearance of white spots. 

History of Vitiligo

The History of Vitiligo can be traced to as early as Rig Veda, an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. The term vitiligo was perhaps derived from the Latin word "vitelius" and used to describe the white flesh of calves, and finally the word vitiligo was attributed to Celsus in his classic Latin book De Medicina in the first Century AD. Read more >>>

How Many People Are Affected By Vitiligo?

The prevalence of vitiligo is believed to be between 0.5% to 2% of the world population on the average, but local numbers may vary greatly, depending on the region and age group (see World Vitiligo Map). The total number of people suffering from vitiligo is estimated at around 65-95 million people worldwide. However, the actual number may be much higher because vitiligo is a very underreported disease.

What Is Known About Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a very complex skin disease. It is characterized by a sudden loss of melanin in the skin, which turns it milky white in irregular patches. Complete knowledge of its etiology has been elusive for decades of intense research. Vitiligo is a chronic, persistent and often progressive disorder; spontaneous repigmentation is uncommon.

The current thought is that vitiligo represents a group of different disorders with a similar outcome: the appearance of white patches on the skin. The convergence theory states that stress, accumulation of toxic compounds, infections, autoimmunity, genetic predisposition, altered cellular environment, and impaired melanocyte migration can all contribute to the initiation process of vitiligo. Autoimmune mechanisms likely underlie generalized vitiligo, while a more localized phenomenon (i.e. the altered activities of sensitive nerves in the skin) may be responsible for segmental or focal vitiligo. Vitiligo may develop at the  site of physical skin trauma; this is known as the “Koebner phenomenon.”

Not all white patches on skin are vitiligo, but white patches resembling vitiligo are not unusual in the skin. They are named leukodermas. As a matter of fact, vitiligo is a specific form of leukoderma with distinct features that separate it from other leukodermas.

Chemical leukoderma can be induced by dyes, perfume, detergents, cleansers, insecticides, rubber condoms, rubber slippers, black socks and shoes, eyeliner, lip liner, lipstick, toothpaste, antiseptics with phenolic-derivatives, and mercuric iodide-containing ‘‘germicidal’’ soap. Chemical leukoderma may trigger "occupational vitiligo" or generalized vitiligo.

Occupational vitiligo may occur in those who work with depigmenting substances like hydroquinone, paratertiary butyl catechol, paratertiary butyl phenol, paratertiary amyl phenol, and hydroquinone monomethyl ether. The only way to know if a depigmented patch on the skin is vitiligo or not is to consult a dermatologist with special interest in Pigmentary Disorders of the skin.

Continue reading about Vitiligo Symptoms and Diagnosis

Disclaimer of Endorsement and Liability

The Vitiligo Research Foundation (VRF) does not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes, or services.

Please be advised that all information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician or health practitioner. Users are warned against changing any aspects of their treatment, diet or lifestyle based on this information without first consulting a registered medical practitioner. While every precaution is taken to ensure accuracy, VRF makes no warranty as to the reliability, accuracy, timeliness, usefulness or completeness of the content which reflect personal opinion of the authors.

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