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Vitiligo is a skin disorder characterized by white patches, which appear in certain specific places. White patches will gradually enlarge in size. In some cases, there are chances of the entire skin getting de-pigmented. This is not a communicable disease. In some cases, it has been found to be hereditary but is not always the case. It affects one to two percent of the entire population and is not race or gender specific.
Melanocytes found on the upper layers of epidermis (the first layer of skin) are responsible for production of melanin, a pigment that gives the characteristic skin color. The destruction or non-efficiency of melanocytes due to various reasons is responsible for loss of skin color leading to de-pigmentation.
Although there are numerous theories for explaining the sudden destruction of melanocytes, autoimmune reaction theory has been supported by many scientists. This theory states that the body suddenly recognizes melanocytes as a foreign substance (antigen). Any external or foreign substance entering the body is immediately recognized as dangerous. The body’s immune system produces antibodies, which are designed to fight these antigens. Therefore, the rapid destruction of melanocytes occurs, leading to de-pigmentation.
A natural defect in the melanocyte gene leading to decreased production of melanin or a damage to nerve endings of melanocytes leading to decreased or irregular production of melanin have also been put forth. However, these theories are not very convincing.
Although there are no specific indications for vitiligo, some people have reported the depigmentation of hair, eyes, and insides of the mouth as indicative symptoms preceding loss of skin color.
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