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What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a skin condition, which results in white patches on the skin. It is also referred to as leukoderma. The patches are pale and of irregular shape. They reduce or increase in size. At times, they are of the same shape and size.

The risk of other areas getting affected is high. When vitiligo reaches the hair, it results in loss of hair colour. It also causes streaks and patches on the hair. Loss of colour inside the mouth and premature greying of the eyelashes, beard and eyebrows are also seen.

Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder, which is a result of deficiency of melanocytes. It is an autoimmune disease, which is characterised by reaction of the immune system against the body's own cells. Individuals with other auto immune diseases, such as alopecia areata, pernicious anaemia and hyperthyroidism are at higher risk of contracting vitiligo. It is also considered hereditary, to a certain extent.

Vitiligo is a result of stress. It is the prime culprit, which in turn affects the immune system of the individual. Removal of the pigments of the skin is the result. Typical symptoms, which are commonly seen, include premature greying of hair, white patches (torso, face, groin and limbs), uveitis (middle eye inflammation), sensitivity to sun and golden brown patches in the area around the mouth, eyes and nostrils. Psychological or physical stress increases the risk of spreading of vitiligo.

The pattern or kind of depigmentation is of three kinds. They are segmental, generalized and focal. Segmental pattern involves depigmentation in a particular segment or one side of the body. Generalized pattern is a balance of the pigmentation on either sides and is the most common pattern. Focal pattern is the depigmentation of smaller areas. The risk of spreading of these pigments is high and varies from one individual to other.
Vitiligo is not infectious. It is generally seen in areas of sun burn or rash, a few months before. Woods light si helpful in detection of vitiligo or leukoderma. It brightens the affected area. Presence of antinuclear antibodies in the blood also denotes the presence of the condition. Presence of uveitis is identified by eye examination.
The psychological effects of this condition are depression, anxiety and isolation (the feeling of being neglected). Psychological support from the family and other close people proves beneficial, to cope with the condition. Association with other vitiligo infected individuals is a helpful technique. Cosmetics help to a certain extent in camouflaging the condition.

Submitted on January 16, 2014