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Once in our lifetime, most of us must have encountered someone with white patches on the skin or faded skin colour and must have wondered what is it? Well! It is a skin disorder called Leucoderma, also known as Vitiligo, that is responsible for the loss of skin colour.
The extent and rate of colour loss caused by Leucoderma are unpredictable i.e. it can affect any part of the body including the hair and the area inside the mouth. The colour of hair and skin is determined by the pigment called melanin. When the cells in the human body stop producing melanin die or they stop functioning, Leucoderma occurs. It affects all skin types, but it is more likely to be noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious but it can be stressful or can lower your self-esteem.
Leucoderma occurs when pigment-producing cells called melanocytes die or stop producing melanin i.e. the pigment responsible for your skin, hair and eye colour. The affected area becomes lighter or white. Although there hasn’t been discovered any concrete reason behind the cells failing or dying, it may be related to
- A disorder making your immune system attack and destroy the melanocytes in the skin
- Family history (heredity)
- A trigger event like stress, sunburn, or exposure to industrial chemicals
- A genetic oxidative stress imbalance
- A neural cause or a virus
Leucoderma can lead to several complications with increased risks of:
- Social or psychological distress
- Skin cancer and sunburn
- Eye problems like inflammation of the iris
- Loss in hearing
Leucoderma can start at any age but it appears before the age of 20 in most cases. Loss of skin colour forming patches is the symptom of Leucoderma that can easily be noticed. In most cases, the discolouration initially occurs on areas exposed to the sun such as arms, face, hands, feet, and lips. Other symptoms include:
- A condition in which the hair on your scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard start whitening or greying, prematurely.
- Loss of colour in the tissues that line the inside of your mouth and nose i.e. mucous membranes.
- Loss of or change in colour of the retina.
Leucoderma is described as "more than a cosmetic problem” by The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), and as a health issue that needs medical attention. There are several methods to cure this condition such as phototherapy with UVB or UVA light and remedies like using sunscreen and getting a tattoo on the affected area but it is highly suggested to see a doctor if you notice any of the symptoms associated with the disease i.e. areas of your hair, skin, or eyes start losing colour.
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