Vitiligo is a skin disorder characterized by the development of
completely white patches of skin.
What is going on in the body?
Skin and hair color are determined by melanin, a pigment produced in cells known as melanocytes. When the melanocytes are damaged or die, they no longer produce melanin. The skin becomes lighter in color.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Vitiligo occurs in all age ranges and all races. About half of the time, vitiligo develops before age 20. No one knows the exact cause of vitiligo, but there are four main theories:
Abnormal nerve cells produce toxic substances that damage melanocytes.
An autoimmune disorder causes the body to produce antibodies that attack and destroy the melanin pigment.
A genetic defect makes the melanocytes more susceptible to injury.
Sunburn and stress may bring on vitiligo.