The term Vitiligo refers to a skin disorder that is caused by pigmentation irregularity. In people suffering from this ailment, melanocytes and mucous membrane that line the inside of the mouth, nose, genital and rectal areas, and the retina of the eyes get battered. In the absence of melanocytes, the production of the coloring pigment, melanin is negatively affected. As a result, white patches start appearing on different body parts. In people who are affected by this disorder, even the body hairs turn white.
White patches on the skin are the most prominent symptom of vitiligo. These patches mainly occur in those parts exposed to sun light such as hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. Other areas that are prone to attack include armpits and groin, eyes, nostrils, navel, and genitals.
Some scientists attribute the cause of this disease to the crazy behavior of antibodies. In people affected with vitilgo, antibodies created by the body for protecting its cells, turn against it and destroy own melanocytes. Yet another theory in this regard is that melanocytes destroy themselves.
Whatever be the true reason, the total number of people who are affected with this discoloring ailment has crossed fifty million. Both men and women fall victim to Vitilgo though it has been found that those under forty years of age are prone to the disorder.
Vitiligo is found to be more common in those people who suffer from certain autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune diseases are those ailments characterized by a person’s immune system reacting against the body’s own organs or tissues. The main autoimmune diseases that are associated with Vitiligo include hyperthyroidism (over activity of the thyroid gland), adrenocortical insufficiency (the adrenal gland does not produce enough of the hormone corticosteroid), alopecia areata (bald patches), and pernicious anemia (decreased count of red blood cells due to the failure of the body to absorb vitamin B12).
Some patients inherit this disease. However, most children do not get attacked by this disease if a single parent is infected. If both the parents are affected with vitilgo, then the child is likely to develop it.