Vitiligo is a non-lethal, non-communicable, immune-mediated and generally progressive skin disease that creates milky white patches of irregular shape on the skin. A specific type of leukoderma, vitiligo is the most common form of pigmentary disorders, equally affecting all races, age groups and social strata.
The ethiopathogenesis is complex and involves the interplay of multiple factors; however, the exact pathogenesis is not well known. Other than the appearance of the spots and occasional itchiness, vitiligo does not cause any discomfort, irritation, soreness, or dryness of the skin. Vitiligo has negative and often devastating effect on the quality of patients’ lives and their socio-economic status.
While the true prevalence of vitiligo is masked from both researchers and the healthcare industry, the consensus prevalence number is close to 1% of the population in the USA, and 0.5-2% worldwide. There are pockets of India (Gujarat) that are estimated to have an incidence of 8.8%.
There are two major types of vitiligo:
- Segmental, also called unilateral vitiligo, happens on one part of the body. It often starts at a young age and usually stops spreading after a year.
- Non-segmental, also called bilateral or generalized vitiligo, may appear on all body parts, especially areas that are bumped or rubbed frequently. These patches often extend slowly over time if left untreated.
An early distinction between these two basic types of vitiligo is very important in predicting disease activity and choosing the right treatment.