What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a disease that leads to the irregular whitening of skin or loss of skin colour in people. Some people may only experience a few white spots while in others the discolouration can spread or even extend to cover most of the skin surface in severe cases.
How the disease will act and progress in individuals is unpredictable. Apart from skin, loss of colour can also affect hairs, lips and the insides of the mouth.
The disease is due to loss of melanocytes, which are pigment cells in the skin responsible for producing its natural colour. Loss of such cells leads to loss of skin colour and hence the whitening effect.
This disease is not life threatening or contagious. There is often no other symptom apart from loss of skin or hair colour. Although some people with vitiligo may also have other autoimmune or congenital diseases at the same time which may warrant further treatment.
Irregular and progressive loss of skin colour can be disfiguring and distressful to individuals with vitiligo owing to social stigmatisation.
Fortunately there are effective medical treatments to halt disease progression and restore skin colour. These include oral medicines, medicated creams, ultraviolet light therapy, phototherapy and surgery. Such treatments allow vitiligo patients to regain back their skin colour, thereby improve their appearance and help boost their confidence in life.
Although treatment may restore colour to affected skin, it does not prevent recurrence or continued loss of skin colour because there is currently no permanent cure for vitiligo.