Vitiligo – what it is, causes, symptoms and treatments!

Vitiligo is a non – contagious disease with no painful manifestation that affects the skin . In the disease, the cells responsible for pigmentation (called melanocytes), that is, skin color are destroyed, so the skin loses its natural color, resulting in depigmented, or white spots , either on the skin or anywhere on the body.


Depigmentation affects all races as well as both sexes and is present in 1% of the general population. Usually, their precondition is developed until the age of 40 and about half of the carriers develop the condition before the age of 20, with the majority belonging to the range of 10 to 30.

Although its cause is still unclear, it is known that it is related to changes in immunity, and can be triggered by situations of emotional stress . It should be remembered that vitiligo is not contagious, however, it can be hereditary and be more common among members of the same family.

Vitiligo has no cure, however, there are several forms of treatment that help to improve the appearance of the skin , reducing inflammation at the site and stimulating repigmentation of the affected regions, such as immunosuppressants, corticosteroids or phototherapy, for example, guided by the dermatologist.

What causes: 

Vitiligo arises when cells that produce melanin, called melanocytes, die or stop producing melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin , hair and eyes its color. While there is still no specific cause for this problem, doctors believe it could be related to:

  • Problems that affect the immune system, causing it to attack melanocytes, destroying them;
  • Hereditary diseases that pass from parents to children;
  • Skin injuries , such as burns or exposure to chemicals.
  • In addition, some people may trigger the disease or experience worsening injuries after a period of stress or emotional trauma.


Vitiligo is characterized by white patches surrounded by a hyper-pigmented border. In generalized vitiligo , the spots usually appear in the armpits, on the back of the hands, on the face (usually around the mouth, eyes, nose), joints (knees, elbows, knuckles,…) and genitals. Vitiligo can also appear in   areas with lesions, especially in areas of friction such as the neck, shoulders and wrists. Their extent varies from person to person: they can be isolated or they can cover a large part of the body.

Approximately 10 to 20% of people with vitiligo experience spontaneous repigmentation of some areas. There are other rarer types of vitiligo : follow-on (only on one side of the cup, focal (only in one place), mucosal (on the mucous membranes), universal ( practically the entire skin  is depigmented).

The main symptom of vitiligo is the appearance of whitish spots in places more exposed to the sun, such as hands, face, arms or lips and, initially, it usually appears as a small and single spot, which can increase in size and quantity with treatment. not be carried out. Other signs of  vitiligo  include:

  • Hair or beard with white spots , before age 35;
  • Loss of color in the lining of the mouth;
  • Loss or change of color in some areas of the eye.

These symptoms are more common before the age of 20, but can appear at any age and on any skin type , although it is more common in people with  darker skin .

vitiligo causes

How the treatment is done: 

Treatment for vitiligo should be guided by a dermatologist as it is necessary to test various forms of treatment, such as phototherapy or application of creams and ointments with corticosteroids and/or immunosuppressants, to understand the best option in each case.

In addition, it is still important to have some care, such as avoiding excessive sun exposure and using a sunscreen with a high protection factor, as the affected skin  is very sensitive and can burn easily.

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