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Risk factors, Patterns and Causes of Vitiligo

Individuals who develop vitiligo normally first discover white patches also known as de-pigmentation, on their skin. These patches are more marked in exposed areas, such as the hands, legs, upper and lower arms, face, and lips. Other areas that these patches commonly appear are the armpits and the groin region and mostly around the mouth, around the eyes, near the nostrils, the navel region, and surrounding the genitals. It is observed that the loss of pigmentation may be swift during the early stages of the condition, but in later stages, the condition may not build up for long periods.

Vitiligo usually forms in one of three patterns. In one pattern known as the focal pattern, the de-pigmentation is restricted to one or only in a few places. Some individuals however form de-pigmented spots on only one side of their bodies which is termed as segmental pattern. But for a majority of individuals with vitiligo, de-pigmentation takes place on different and varied parts of the body, anywhere on the skin and this is known as generalized pattern. Further to the white spots on the skin, patients with vitiligo may also have untimely graying of the scalp hair, hair on the eyelashes, hair on the eyebrows, and on the beard. People who have a dark skin complexion may notice a decline of color inside their mouths.

Some patients also experience the ‘Koebner phenomenon’, which is diagnosed by the changes in the skin color that occurs at the site of the skin trauma. In this condition, vitiligo tends to occur at the site of lesions, surgical wounds and even in the case of eczema or psoriasis. The hair follicles in the areas of vitiligo either stay pigmented or may go completely white which is known as leukotrichia. At times premature hair graying can also take place not only in cases of vitiligo but is also seen among relatives of the patients.

Although vitiligo can begin at any age, symptoms of vitiligo are first observed around the ages between 20 and 30. The skin problem is known to affect both the sexes and all races equally without any discrimination. Most individuals with vitiligo are in other respects healthy and have no abnormality in terms of skin texture or sensation. However, the disorder may be much common among individuals with specified autoimmune disorders such as Addison's syndrome, vitamin B-12 inadequacy, pernicious anemia, or severe thyroid abnormalities including hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

The natural path of vitiligo is not easy to predict. In some cases, the white patches cease to form without any medication or therapy. While in some other cases, the loss of pigmentation can occupy most of the surface of the skin.