Vitiligo is a rare autoimmune disorder that affects approximately 1% of the world’s population. The body attacks its own melanocytes (pigment-producing cells), thereby stripping the skin of its color. If the lightened area is covered by hair, the hair may also become white. All genders and races can be affected. However, due to the drastic difference between their natural skin tone and their white patches, vitiligo is more noticeable in dark-skinned people. We do not know why vitiligo occurs, although research exists that indicates genetics and other autoimmune disorders as possible causes.
Vitiligo is not contagious or life-threatening, but it can impose immense psychological and emotional difficulties on those affected. People with vitiligo are often ostracized or ridiculed by their peers due to a lack of knowledge about the disorder. To escape the stigma associated with vitiligo, many choose to mask their white patches with concealers or foundations.
Although vitiligo can never be cured, it can be treated. It is very hard to treat vitiligo, but phototherapy or laser treatment may result in gradual repigmentation of the affected skin. Repigmentation, which occurs when healthy melanocytes are restored to the skin, is difficult on bony areas like the hands and feet, but easier on areas like the face.