Vitiligo is a skin disease characterized by white skin areas due to pigment loss. It affects females and males equally and its prevalence in the population is about 1%. The body develops autoantibodies against its own melanocytes in this disorder without a definitely known etiology and the melanin that gives the skin its color cannot be produced. Although it can appear at any age, it starts before the age of 20 in half of the patients and a family history is present in 20% of the patients.
The disease often involves the hand, arm, foot and face areas that are exposed to the sun but can be seen in any part of the body. The skin is the only organ involved. However, vitiligo can lead to depression and anxiety in the individual, especially when present in visible areas.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease where the body fights against its own melanocytes by producing autoantibodies. The risk of developing a second autoimmune disease is increased in those with an autoimmune disease. Vitiligo patients should therefore be evaluated for autoantibodies in the serum. The second most common autoimmune disease is Hashimoto thyroiditis and affects the thyroid gland.
The diagnosis of vitiligo is easy. It can usually be diagnosed with inspection. Depigmentation can be observed with a Wood’s light. However, a skin biopsy can be taken in the rare indeterminate situations.
Vitiligo is a treatable disease but the effectiveness of the treatment varies from person to person. Topical corticosteroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors, phototherapy, excimer laser, sun protection and depigmentation treatment in patients with widespread involvement are recommended for treatment.