Vitiligo is defined as a condition that causes the skin to lose melanin, the pigment that determines skin, hair and eye color. It causes white irregularly shaped patches on the skin to appear. While this condition affects people of all races, it is more noticeable in those with darker skin. While there is no cure for this skin condition, treatment may exist to stop or slow pigment loss or return some color to the skin.
This condition occurs as a result of the loss of melanin in the skin. With no melanin to give the skin its color, white patches begin to form on the skin. The white patches slowly progress and get larger with time.
Cells that produce melanin die or cease producing melanin for an unexplained reason. The cause of this occurrence remains unknown, although some have formed theories as to its cause.
Doctors and scientists have formed theories as to why the skin loses melanin. Some may attribute it to an immune system disorder, while others blame heredity because the condition has been known to run in some families.
Some scientists and doctors believe that vitiligo is the result of sunburn or an instance of emotional distress. Despite the many theories, none have been definitively proven to cause the condition.
Patients who notice irregular white patches on their skin should contact their doctor. The physician may perform tests and examinations in diagnosing vitiligo or other diseases such as an autoimmune disorder. The doctor may also recommend the patient see an ophthalmologist for an eye examination.