In this Article
- Vitiligo facts*
- What is vitiligo, and what causes it?
- Who is affected by vitiligo, and is vitiligo inherited?
- What are the symptoms and signs of vitiligo?
- Will the depigmented patches spread?
- How is vitiligo diagnosed?
- How can people cope with the emotional and psychological aspects of vitiligo?
- What treatment options are available for vitiligo?
- Medical therapies
- Surgical therapies
- Additional therapies
- What research is being done on vitiligo?
- Where can people find more information about vitiligo?
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
Who is affected by vitiligo?
About 0.5 to 1 percent of the world's population, or as many as 65 million people, have vitiligo. In the United States, 1 to 2 million people have the disorder. Half the people who have vitiligo develop it before age 20; most develop it before their 40th birthday. The disorder affects both sexes and all races equally; however, it is more noticeable in people with dark skin.
Vitiligo seems to be somewhat more common in people with certain autoimmune diseases, including hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland), adrenocortical insufficiency (the adrenal gland does not produce enough of the hormone called corticosteroid), alopecia areata (patches of baldness), and pernicious anemia (a low level of red blood cells caused by the failure of the body to absorb vitamin B12). Scientists do not know the reason for the association between vitiligo and these autoimmune diseases. However, most people with vitiligo have no other autoimmune disease.
Vitiligo may also be hereditary; that is, it can run in families. Children whose parents have the disorder are more likely to develop vitiligo. In fact, 30 percent of people with vitiligo have a family member with the disease. However, only 5 to 7 percent of children will get vitiligo even if a parent has it, and most people with vitiligo do not have a family history of the disorder.
What are the symptoms vitiligo?
People who develop vitiligo usually first notice white patches (depigmentation) on their skin. These patches are more commonly found on sun-exposed areas of the body, including the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. Other common areas for white patches to appear are the armpits and groin, and around the mouth, eyes, nostrils, navel, genitals, and rectum.
Vitiligo generally appears in one of three patterns:
- focal pattern -- depigmentation limited to one or only a few areas
- segmental pattern -- depigmented patches that develop on one side of the body
- generalized pattern -- the most common pattern. Depigmentation occurs symmetrically on both sides of the body.
In addition to white patches on the skin, people with vitiligo may have premature graying of the scalp hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, and beard. People with dark skin may notice a loss of color inside their mouths.
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