Vitiligo or leukoderma is an irregular patch of white caused by the loss of melanocytes or melanin pigment producing cells.

White patches of vitiligo or leukoderma.
Vitiligo or leukoderma patches.

In a similar condition called chemical leukoderma, phenol chemicals commonly found in industrial cleansers and solvents cause depigmented when applied to the skin.

How is it Pronounced?

Veet-tel-I-go (rhymes with "little-I-go").

The word vitiligo is derived from the Latin vitimeaning "blemish" and ligo meaning "to cause".

Symptoms of Vitiligo

The symptoms of vitiligo are:

  • Irregularly shaped white patches
  • Body hair turning white in the areas
  • One or many patches on the body

Although it can occur on any part of the body, vitiligo most often occurs on:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Underarms
  • Feet
  • Genitals

This condition is progressive - the patches usually becomes larger in size and more numerous. They may gradually spread to other parts of the body.

Causes of Vitiligo?

The exact cause is not known. It is thought, however, it is a form of autoimmune disorder, where the body's immune system mistakenly recognize the melanocytes as foreign cells and destroy them.

Vitiligo is thought to be triggered and made worse by:

  • Stress
  • Injury
  • Sunburn

Who Gets It?

It is thought that this skin condition is a genetic or inherited condition. Although most people with vitiligo are perfectly healthy, they often have higher risk of developing:

  • Thyroid disease
  • Anemia
  • Diabetes

Is it Contagious?

No, vitiligo is not contagious.

Treatment of Vitiligo

Self-treatment for vitiligo is limited to:

  • Using cosmetics to "cover and hide" the white patches

  • Avoiding suntanning on normal skin
    Remember that the white areas do not have any pigments and therefore are particularly prone to sunburn and sun-damage. Use lotion with high SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher.

Medical treatments for vitiligo are:

  • Psoralen photochemotherapy
    This is a light therapy using ultraviolet A (UVA) combined with psoralen - a medication that causes the skin to become more sensitive to UVA. This procedure is done at your doctor's office several times a week for many months.

  • Steroid cream
    When caught early, steroid creams may bring color and pigment back to the area after about 6 months.

  • Depigmentation
    In people with more depigmented areas than normal, a chemical depigmentation process be done to achieve a more uniform skin color.

    Here, monobenzylether hydroquinone chemical is used to permanently remove pigment from normal areas of the skin.

Note that the treatments above often have low and varied success rate.

See also:
Vitiligo Pictures

Main Menu
Health Articles
Health News
Health Research
Site Map

Health Conditions
Cardiovascular Health
Digestive Health
Infectous Diseases
Musculoskeletal Health
Pregnancy & Childbirth
Skin Health

Misc. Health Articles
Presidential Diseases

Skin Conditions
All Skin Conditions

Vitiligo Menu
Vitiligo Overview
Vitiligo Pictures

©copyright 2004 - Health In Plain English. All Rights Reserved.

Health Articles Health News Health Research Explained in Plain English