Vitiligo is an acquired depigmenting disorder characterized by a chronic and progressive loss of melanocytes from the epidermis and follicular reservoir. The term Vitiligo was used for first time by a Roman Physician Celsus in 2nd century AD. The Atharvaveda mentioned leukoderma as a variety of Leprosy (Shwetakushtha) along with a prescription of several herbal remedies. This book dates back to 1400 B.C. (ref)
Vitiligo is a common skin disorder characterised by de-pigmented milky white patches on the skin. The current incidence of vitiligo is not accurate, although earlier studies have shown it to be between 0.5%- 2% of the world population. Thus a conservative estimate of vitiligo sufferers worldwide is between 35 and 140 million. Vitiligo affects both genders and all races equally. It is also assumed that prevalence is similar throughout the world and in all ethnic groups. However, there is less data to support the frequency of the disease.
Is vitiligo a contagious disease?
Vitiligo disease is a cosmetic disability that is definitely not contagious. Vitiligo does not spread by touching. Unfortunately, misconceptions like these often mean that patients may find themselves a victim of discrimination and are often driven to the depths of despair.
The exact cause of the disorder is still unknown. A combination of factors which include genetic predisposition, disturbance in immune system, environmental triggers and other known and unknown exogenous precipitating factors are thought to be responsible for the development of vitiligo.(ref)
Types and Appearance
- Non Segmental vitiligo (NSV) – Focal, a mucosal, acrofacial, generalized, universal
- Segmental vitiligo (SV)
- Mixed vitiligo – Segmental + non segmental
A typical vitiligo or leukoderma lesion is a well-defined milky-white patch. It usually appears between the ages of 10 and 20 years but can appear at any age. It can appear on any part of body.
After an initial spread of the disease (unstable stage) there are periods of stability. During this period patches don’t increase in size and no new patches appear on the body. The period of stability varies from few weeks to few years and is completely unpredictable. For a patient with generalized vitiligo recurrence is a rule. About 20% of patients experience spontaneous repigmentation of all or some of the patches. The exact cause of this recovery or deterioration is not known type.
It appears early in life, spreads rapidly in a particular segment of the body and then stabilizes. It has a peculiar pattern typically described as segmental vitiligo pattern. Complete re-pigmentation is unlikely with medical therapies. Surgical treatment gives the best results. Recurrence and spread in same segment is possible but rare. Segmental vitiligo / leukoderma is localized and is the most stable.