Vitiligo is a skin condition in which patches that are white in appearance form on the surface of the skin. The condition currently affects over one million Americans regardless of race or sex. Most people who develop vitiligo find it commonly appears on areas that are most often exposed to the sun such as the hands, feet, arms, face, eyelids, lips, and nostrils. Vitiligo can also appear in the armpits and groin and can spread slowly or rapidly to other parts of the body.
The cause of vitiligo is not known but it is suspected to be an autoimmune disease. This is when the immune system mistakenly attacks the skin's melanocytes, which is what makes the pigment in your skin known as melanin. If these cells die or cannot form melanin, the skin becomes lighter or completely white. Other causes may be genetic, severe sunburn or emotional distress. While vitiligo may run in families, most children whose parents have the disorder will not get it.
Everyone is unique in their experience with vitiligo so different therapies will respond better for different people. Because of this, many vitiligo experts will try different therapies on a patient until they find what works best for that person. Some treatment options for vitiligo work by restoring color to the white patches of skin. Depending on the degree of the white patches, other treatment options include:
It is also important to practice adequate sun protection using sunscreen and protective clothing. Reducing emotional and physical stress will also help.