Vitiligo also known as leucoderma, simply means white (leuco), skin (derma); i.e. a disorder where the skin loses its normal color. The typical appearance of vitiligo is milky white de-pigmented spots. It has a tendency to start as a single spot and gradually grow in size and number. Melanin is the pigment that gives the skin its characteristic color. Vitiligo is caused by a loss of pigment in the skin, due to destruction of pigment-forming cells known as melanocytes. Patients who are stigmatized for their condition may experience depression and similar mood disorders.
The actual causes of vitiligo are not completely known and are still to be explored. Children whose parents have the disorder are more likely to develop vitiligo. People with leukoderma may have premature graying of the scalp hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, and beard. Vitiligo generally appears in one of three patterns:
1. Focal pattern - depigmentation is limited to one or only a few areas
2. Segmental pattern - depigmented patches develop on only one side of the body
3. Generalized pattern - most common. Depigmentation occurs symmetrically on both sides of the body
There are a number of ways to alter the appearance of vitiligo. The choice of therapy depends on the number, location and sizes of white patches. The treatment options can be categorized under medical, surgical, and adjunctive therapies.
1. Psoralen photochemotherapy or PUVA therapy: Psoralen is a drug that contains chemicals that react with ultraviolet light to cause darkening of the skin. Psoralen can be taken by mouth (orally) or applying it to the skin (topically).
2. Topical psoralen photochemotherapy:used for people with a small number of depigmented patches affecting a limited part of the body