Loss of Skin Pigmentation

Skin | Dermatology | Loss of Skin Pigmentation (Symptom)


Vitiligo is a skin condition in which a loss of pigment causes the skin to appear white (depigmentation). Irregular white patches may occur on any area of the body. Due to the difference between the affected and unaffected areas, this condition is more visible in people with darker skin. It affects 1% to 2% of the population and can affect anyone.

This condition can also affect mucous membranes and the retina of the eye. The hair that grows in areas affected by vitiligo may also turn white. Symptoms of vitiligo include the appearance of irregular white patches, or various degrees of depigmentation on the body.

People often notice the loss of pigment on the following areas first: face, lips, hands, arms, feet. The other areas where white patches due to vitiligo may occur are: armpits, eyes, genitals, groin, navel, nostrils.


A person with vitiligo does not have enough working melanocytes, so not enough melanin produced in the skin

The cause of vitiligo is not known, but doctors and researchers have several different theories. There is strong evidence that people with vitiligo inherit a group of three genes that make them susceptible to depigmentation. The most widely accepted view is that the depigmentation occurs because vitiligo is an autoimmune disease - a disease in which a person's immune system reacts against the body's own organs or tissues.

People's bodies produce proteins called cytokines that, in vitiligo, alter their pigment-producing cells and cause these cells to die. Another theory is that melanocytes destroy themselves. Finally, some people have reported that a single event such as sunburn or emotional distress triggered vitiligo; however, these events have not been scientifically proven as causes of vitiligo.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The main goal of treating vitiligo is to improve appearance. Therapy for vitiligo takes a long time and it usually must be continued for 6 to 18 months. The choice of therapy depends on the number of white patches; their location, sizes, and how widespread they are. Each patient responds differently to therapy, and a particular treatment may not work for everyone. Current treatment options for vitiligo include medication, surgery, and adjunctive therapies (used along with surgical or medical treatments).


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