Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) die or stop producing melanin — the pigment that gives your skin, hair and eyes color. The involved patches of skin become lighter or white. Over the years, medical research has been trying to uncover the cause of vitiligo. Currently, there is no sole cause of vitiligo that is confirmed by medical authorities. Through our years of experience, we have identified some factors that play a significant role in contributing to the onset of vitiligo.
It may be related to:
- A disorder in which your immune system attacks and destroys the melanocytes in the skin
- Family history (heredity)
- A trigger event, such as sunburn, stress or exposure to industrial chemicals
The most well-known factor is heredity. Many vitiligo patients have first degree relatives that have vitiligo in some shape or form. However, it will be too quick to conclude that hereditary is the main factor for vitiligo. For instance, for identical twins with almost identical genetic makeup, one could exhibit vitiligo symptoms while the other has totally no signs at all.
Instead of considering vitiligo hereditary, the tendency to develop vitiligo can be hereditary. If one has inherited the tendency to develop vitiligo, then external environmental factors would play a part in triggering the onset of vitiligo.
Some triggers include intense stress, critical sunburn or chemical exposure. Many patients notice a sudden onset of vitiligo after intensely stressful events in their lives. Critical sunburn or exposure to certain chemicals can also trigger the already susceptible skin to exhibit vitiligo.
The information above is drawn from years of experience in treating vitiligo patients. However, it is not meant to be all-encompassing or an exhaustive list. Self-diagnosis and treatment can backfire and cause irreversible damage which impedes recovery later.
Individuals with vitiligo should seek professional medical advice to manage their vitiligo situation. Early vitiligo treatment is encouraged as re-pigmentation can be far more challenging in the later stages when the skin has lost most of the pigments.
People with vitiligo may be at increased risk of:
- Social or psychological distress
- Sunburn and skin cancer
- Eye problems, such as inflammation of the iris (iritis)
- Hearing loss