What is it?

Vitiligo is a skin condition which results from loss of pigment to the skin producing white patches. It is more noticeable in darker skinned people because of the contrast of white patches against dark skin. There is a sudden or gradual appearance of flat areas of normal-feeling skin with complete pigment loss. Lesions appear as flat areas with no pigment and with a darker border. The edges are sharply defined but irregular. It can occur anywhere on the body including the face, lips, hands, arms, legs, and genital areas. Vitiligo is a widespread condition and affects about two out of every 100 people. Vitiligo is not contagious and can be treated to prevent the condition from worsening.

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What causes vitiligo?

There is no exact cause for vitiligo. However, the current theories indicate that people sometimes develop antibodies that destroy melanocytes (the skin pigment cells) in their own bodies. Another theory suggests that a solitary event such as sunburn or extreme emotional distress can also aggravate the condition. Most people with vitiligo have good general health and usually inherit the condition or it results from an autoimmune system problem.

How can it be prevented?

Since vitiligo can be tied to family history, it can never be completely prevented. However, minimizing sun exposure and protecting your skin with sunscreen are a couple of ways to prevent vitiligo.