Vitiligo - Personal Experience

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With your first symptoms, did you suspect vitiligo or think it might be something else? Please describe your experience.

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What is vitiligo, and what causes it?

Vitiligo (pronounced vit-ill-EYE-go) is a pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) in the skin are destroyed. As a result, white patches appear on the skin in different parts of the body. Similar patches also appear on both the mucous membranes (tissues that line the inside of the mouth and nose) and the retina (inner layer of the eyeball). The hair that grows on areas affected by vitiligo sometimes turns white.

The cause of vitiligo is not known, but doctors and researchers have several different theories. There is strong evidence that people with vitiligo inherit a group of three genes that make them susceptible to depigmentation. The most widely accepted view is that the depigmentation occurs because vitiligo is an autoimmune disease - a disease in which a person's immune system reacts against the body's own tissues. People's bodies produce proteins called cytokines that, in vitiligo, alter their pigment-producing cells and cause these cells to die. Another theory is that melanocytes destroy themselves. Finally, some people have reported that a single event such as sunburn or emotional distress triggered vitiligo; however, these events have not been scientifically proven as causes of vitiligo.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: AK Mom, 13-18 Male (Caregiver) Published: April 11

My youngest son has had vitiligo since he was 2 or 3. We did not know that was what it was called and I really don"t think any doctors had ever called it by name until he was in his teens. Of course, the doctors said there was no treatment and that it was just where the skin had no pigmentation. He has always been a very handsome boy, and it has never bothered him. He has had people ask him, but he was always so outgoing that it never occurred to the other kids to tease him. He is now a freshman in college and playing college football. After seeing this site I asked him if it ever bothers him, and he laughed and said no. I have read some other peoples stories and it made me sad to see how negative this has affected their lives. My advice to them is, don"t let others put you down, turn it around on them and make it into a joke. It is what is in the inside that will shine out, and that is what people will see.

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Comment from: gold_73, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: May 21

The vitiligo started when I was 9 years old. My ankles started itching and I started scratching. Then I noticed small white spots on either side of my ankles. I tried to hide it from my parents and failed. Off to the doctor"s we go. Next thing I know I get the same prescription for a hydro-cortisone cream my mom had for liver spots! Later on my Mom explained to me that, "there is a bug under your skin eating away the pigment." Lucky for me, 4 years later the news broke about Michael Jackson, so I finally had an answer to all the "Were you burned? Car accident? Scars?" questions I loathe. I am affected with vitiligo on both eyelids, armpits, wrists, hands, ankles, top of feet, inner thighs, stomach, and genital regions, my scalp in spots prompting me to dye my hair since I was 14, and the back of my neck. I have never consulted a doctor as an adult and simply dealt with it by avoiding sun exposure and sandals, etc.

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