What causes the loss of pigmentation, and white patches on the skin?
December 22, 2006 3:46am CST
A loss of pigmentation in the skin is partly caused by an autoimmune deficiency condition called vitiligo, wherein pigment producing cells (melanocytes) in the skin are destroyed. While only affecting a very small percentage of the world's population, it affects all ethnic groups, and can progress over time, beginning on the face or hands. Vitiligo does not have serious consequences for health, and as yet does not have a cure, although surgical procedures can transplant healthy melanocytes to affected areas in an attempt to reverse or slow down the condition. Additionally, several steroid creams can ease the damage to the skin and prevent side effects of the condition such as glaucoma or cataracts. PUVA (Psoralen and Ultra-Violet A Light) treatments can be used orally for severe cases, but has limited effects on the skin. Certain tanning procedures also have the potential to darken and hide the white patches, while depigmentation therapy can balance the skin tone to prevent white patches from being as noticeable.