Information on Vitiligo: White spots on skin

A lot of people ask me to define vitiligo. Vitiligo is a disease in which the skin loses pigment due to the destruction of melanocytes or pigment cells. Basically.. patches and areas of the skin become white.

The most common sites of pigment loss are body folds (such as the groin or armpits), around body openings and exposed areas like the face or hands. Vitiligo is common; in fact 1 to 2% of the general population has it. Its incidence is higher in people with thyroid conditions and some other metabolic diseases, but most people who have vitiligo are in good health and suffer no symptoms other than areas of pigment loss. Medical researchers are not sure what causes vitiligo. Some researchers think the body may develop an allergy to its pigment cells; others think that the cells may destroy themselves during the process of pigment production.

Will Vitiligo Spread across my body?  It may spread to other areas, but there is no way  of truly predicting if it will or where it will spread.  In many cases, initial pigment loss will occur; then after several months, the number and size of the light areas become stable and may remain so for a long time. Sessions of pigment loss may appear again later on. Many vitiligo patients report that initial or later episodes of pigment loss followed by periods of physical or emotional stress, which seem to trigger de pigmentation in those who are predisposed. Sometimes, de-pigmented areas may spontaneously re-pigment.

Vitiligo Treatment & Cures?   The most common mode of therapy used in widespread it is a combination of a drug called Psoralen ( it is applied to the skin or taken orally via a pill) as well as regulated doses of sunlight. Some doctors have their patients us use psoralen and full body indoor ultraviolet light treatments. The psoralen treatment is not always successful, but many patients find that it is helpful in restoring some degree of pigmentation to areas of the skin where Vitiligo has shown up.