Vitiligo causes patches of paler skin to appear on the surface of the skin; the condition affects 1 in 100 people in the UK. The paler patches that develop on the skin contain no melanin, which is the pigment that causes the skin to have colour. Vitiligo is most commonly found on body parts that are exposed to direct sunlight such as the hands and face.
Causes of vitiligo
Vitiligo occurs when cells in the skin don’t produce as much melanin as usual; it is not known why this happens in some people but it is thought that the condition is associated with a defect in the immune system. Experts believe that vitiligo occurs as result of the antibodies in the body attacking the cells that produce melanin. Vitiligo may also run in families.
Symptoms of vitiligo
Vitiligo is characterised by pale, white patches developing on the skin; these patches are completely painless and do not feel any different to other areas of the skin. The patches are most commonly found on the hands, face, neck and genital areas.
Vitiligo has no cure but there are treatments available which can help to stop the spread of the condition and restore the natural colour of the skin. Treatment usually includes steroid creams. It is also important to keep the affected body part out of the sun as this may cause the condition to worsen.