Vitiligo is a skin disorder in which melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) in the skin are destroyed. As a result, white patches appear on the skin in different parts of the body. Similar patches also appear on both the mucous membranes (tissues that line the inside of the mouth and nose) and the retina (inner layer of the eyeball). The hair that grows on areas affected by vitiligo sometimes turns white. Many people do not have any other signs or symptoms; they feel healthy.
Vitiligo affects all races, but may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. Though its more noticeable on darker skin tones, vitiligo does not discriminate based on race, gender, socioeconomics or any other basis. Vitiligo usually starts as small areas of pigment loss that spread with time. There is no cure for the disorder. The goal of treatment is to stop or slow the progression of pigment loss and attempt to return some color to the skin.
Treatments for vitiligo include medicines, light therapy and surgery. Not every treatment is right for everyone. Many have side effects. Some take a long time. Some do not always work.
The disease is not contagious or life threatening. But, vitiligo can be life altering. Some people develop low self-esteem, do not want to go out in public or develop serious depression. Most people have vitiligo for life, so it’s important to develop coping strategies.