Not many people know about this skin disorder and are unsure how to react when they meet someone who has it. I had Vitiligo when I was younger and a lot of people assumed it was from burns. I didn’t lose a lot of my pigmentation and some treatment lead to re-pigmentation, so I no longer have patches on my hands or anywhere else. There are people who don’t get this and I’m not entirely sure the patches won’t start reappearing so I figured it would be good to share what I know about it.
Melanin is the pigment that gives the skin its characteristic color. Vitiligo is caused by a loss of pigment in the skin, due to destruction of pigment-forming cells known as melanocytes. it starts in small patches and spreads across the body (rapid pigment loss). The rate of the spread differs for different people and can be determined by physical or emotional distress. For instance I noticed that if I’d hurt myself that area would heal my natural skin tone wouldn’t return.
Vitiligo commonly affects areas on the skin that are exposed to sun, body folds (e.g armpits), previous sites of injury, or areas around body openings (e.g mouth). There’s no way to predict how vitiligo will spread, but sometimes the patches stay in particular spots. I have seen some people who lose so much of their pigmentation that they look similar to albinos. Some people with vitiligo may have premature graying of the scalp hair, eyelashes, and facial hair. This disorder affects both males and females of all races, though it is more noticeable in darker skinned people.
Apparently the average age of onset (when someone is likely to start exhibiting signs and symptoms) is in there 20’s but is can happen any time before your 40’s. The exact cause of the destruction of melanocytes is not known. Though one possible explanation that I keep seeing is that the body’s immune system destroys the cells, as in other autoimmune disorders (a number of people with vitiligo also have an autoimmune disorder). Vitiligo is also said to be hereditary. It is NOT contagious!
As far as I know there is no cure but there are treatments that improve appearance. from skin creams to surgery there are different options to suit different people.
It isn’t something to be ashamed of, it just makes people look different. So yes, ask questions but don’t do or say things that will make that person feel like an outcast. For instance one lady was nicknamed cow because of her patches. Vitiligo may not be life threatening but psychologically it can cripple a person depending on their social experiences.
Now you know a little more. There’s plenty of information online, and if you feel that you may have it don’t hesitate to speak to a doctor.
If you know anything more or have an experience to share, post it below.