Vitiligo is a condition in which pigment cells are destroyed and irregular white patches result. The exact cause is unknown, but it is thought to be an autoimmune disorder (the body makes antibodies to its own pigment).
Who Gets Vitiligo?
Vitiligo affects one or two of every 100 people. About half the people who develop it do so before the age of 20; about one-fifth have a family member with this condition. Most people with vitiligo may occur with other autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disease.
The extent of color loss differs with each person. There is no way to predict how much pigment will be lost. Although rare, people may lose pigment over their entire body. Most patients with vitiligo do not regain skin color without treatment.
Several methods including cortisone or other creams, light treatments, laser treatments, intense pulsed light (IPL), or skin grafting may be used to treat vitiligo, but there are not perfect therapies. The most common method is PUVA therapy, combining am medication called psoralen and ultraviolet A light treatments. In cases where vitiligo affects most of the body, it is sometimes helpful to suggest destroying the remaining normal pigment. A dermatologist can determine what treatment is best based on the extent of the disease.
Is Vitiligo Curable?
At this time, the exact cause of vitiligo is not known, however, there may be an inherited component. Although treatment is available, there is no single cure. Research is ongoing in vitiligo and it is hoped that new treatments will be developed.