Vitiligo is a skin disorder where skin looses it color pigment called melanin. There may either be destruction of melanin or loss of melanin pigments.
FAQ's About Melanocyte Transplants
Vitiligo does not spread by touch. It is not caused by any germs such as bacteria or virus. It is 100% safe to touch one who has vitiligo. It is a sign of ignorance if one avoids touching the person who has vitiligo.
Vitiligo is NOT a serious disease. In fact, it is one of the most benign conditions that our body can have.
Vitiligo appears as uneven white patches on the skin, that may vary from lighter tan to complete absence of pigment. Many people develop vitiligo bilaterally, in other words, if it appears on one elbow, it often appears on the other elbow. Researchers do not completely understand why this is. Others develop what is known as segmental vitiligo, where the patches develop in only one area or on only one side of the body.
A Melanocyte is a specialized cell located in the skin, which produces melanin (pigment). Surprisingly, all humans have roughly the same number of pigment cells in their skin. Those with darker toned skin, have pigment cells that are able to store more melanin within them. In the diagram below, the cell with the tendrils, marked “I” is the melanocyte. The brown color within the cell is the melanin. The cell uses the tendrils to distribute the melanin evenly throughout the skin.
People who develop vitiligo usually first notice white patches or spots (depigmentation) on their skin. The skin remains of normal texture, though some people experience itching in areas where depigmentation is occurring. The white patches are more obvious in sun-exposed areas, including the hands, feet, arms, legs face, and lips. Other common areas for white patches to appear are the armpits and groin and around the mouth, eyes, nostrils, navel, and genitals. Vitiligo generally appears in one of three patterns. In one pattern (focal pattern), the depigmentation is limited to one or only a few areas. Some people develop depigmented patches on only one side of their bodies (segmental vitiligo). For most people who have vitiligo, depigmentation occurs on different parts of the body, in a bilateral pattern (generalized vitiligo). In addition to white patches on the skin, some people with vitiligo may experience white hair growing in on the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, and beard.
For reasons we don’t really understand yet, there are certain parts of the body, which are commonly affected in those who have vitiligo. The face, underarms, hands, wrists, fingers, feet, elbows, knees and genitals are among these areas. There are many theories about why such sensitive areas of the body seem to be commonly affected – the presence of many nerve endings, the bony nature, sweat glands, etc.
The course and severity of pigment loss differ with each person. In many cases, vitiligo begins in a small area. Over time, other spots may appear, while existing spots may grow larger. Some people notice that their vitiligo may stay the same for years or even decades, and then suddenly new areas of depigmentation may occur. Occasionally, vitiligo patches will repigment spontaneously, all by themselves, with no treatment whatsoever. Many people with vitiligo do notice this happening at some point in their lives.