You must have seen older pictures of Michael Jackson and wondered that his skin color was not white as in his later years. The intent is not to discriminate anybody on basis of skin color but to describe a disease which causes de-pigmentation of skin, known as vitiligo or leucoderma. The exact cause for vitiligo is not known, but a combination of genetic, immunologic and environmental factors are involved in most cases. Let us review some basic facts about vitiligo.
What is vitiligo?
I like the definition provided by Mayo Clinic that appropriate defines vitiligo. Vitiligo is a condition in which your skin loses melanin, the pigment that determines the color of your skin, hair and eyes. Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or no longer form melanin, causing slowly enlarging white patches of irregular shapes to appear on your skin.
Who is affected by vitiligo?
About 65 million people around the world have vitiligo. It is estimated that in United States alone, 2-4 million people are affected by vitiligo. Vitiligo does not discriminate people by races, it is found in every race and gender, but it is more noticeable in people with darker skin. Half the people who have vitiligo develop it before age 20 and most develop it before their 40th birthday. Michael Jackson was a vitiligo patient.
It has been observed that vitiligo can run in families and can be hereditary, i.e. children whose parents have the disorder are more likely to develop vitiligo. The statistics says that 30 percent of people with vitiligo have a family member with the disease.
The most common sign of vitiligo is appearance of milky white patches on your skin. You should also watch out for vitiligo if you have premature whitening of hair on your scalp, eye brow and lashes; loss of color in tissues inside your mouth, and loss of color in your retina. There are three most common patterns of vitiligo as per Mayo Clinic:
- Focal: Depigmentation is limited to one or a few areas of your body.
- Segmental: Loss of skin color occurs on only one side of your body.
10pt;">Generalized: Pigment loss is widespread across many parts of your body, often symmetrically.
What are treatments for vitiligo?
As of today, there is no cure for vitiligo. All the therapies that are used to fight vitiligo work on stopping or reducing progression of pigmentation loss and return to the original skin color. Medicine.net provides extensive details of common medical therapies that are used to fight vitiligo. I will list the therapies and I would recommend that you follow this link to read the details:
- Topical steroid therapy
- Psoralen photochemotherapy
- Topical psoralen photochemotherapy
- Oral psoralen photochemotherapy
- Autologous skin grafts
- Skin grafts using blisters
- Micropigmentation (tattooing)
- Autologous melanocyte transplants
- Counseling and support groups
Vitiligo is not a cancerous or pre-cancerous disease and is absolutely not a contagious disease. National Vitiligo Foundation, Inc addresses most of the issues related to vitiligo including treatment options and lists physicians in the United States. Some people with highly visible vitiligo may be annoyed by questions or glances from strangers, especially from curious small children. If you have vitiligo, it is important for you to be aware of basic facts about vitiligo and treatment options. For those of you, who are lucky enough to not having vitiligo, please provide mental support to people who have vitiligo, which may be as important as treating the disease.