What Causes Vitiligo?

Vitiligo has been known to humanity for a long time. Its origin was always related to something mystical. Scientists and doctors are still trying to find the primary cause of this disease, as well as an effective method of treatment. Vitiligo is common, not only among adults, but also with children. Why does it appear and what causes it?

How everything happens

The skin consists of melanocytes, which are situated in the basal layer. That’s where the synthesis of melanin – a pigment that imparts color to the skin, is happening. The biochemical mechanism of this is not possible without the amino acid tyrosine and without hormones which are involved in complex biochemical processes.

Melanin is a compound substance consisting of amino acids: carbon 55%, oxygen 30%, nitrogen 9%, hydrogen 4% and other elements. Under the influence of some factors, the synthesis can be disturbed, and depigmentation or lack of color occurs in some areas. Discolored spots can take on various forms. They are capable of merging or having precise borders. Usually, the disease has no other symptoms such as rashes or discomfort.

Causes of Vitiligo

According to the statistics of international health organizations, about 2% of the world population suffers from vitiligo.

The disease is considered to be an acquired pathology, but it’s not contagious. The main complaint of vitiligo patients is associated with the cosmetic side of the condition, namely depigmented spots, which may vary in size and can be located in different parts of the body.

Naming the exact cause of the disease is impossible.

Vitiligo can develop under the impact of external factors:

  • stress, neuroses, etc.;
  • chemical substances;
  • exposure to sunlight;
  • frequent skin injuries.

Internal factors include:

  • infectious diseases;
  • endocrine system disorders;
  • chronic diseases;
  • helminthic invasion.

The possibility genetic transmission of vitiligo is still controversial. There is a good chance that some predisposing factors (immune or vegetative) may contribute to the further development of the disease.

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What can become a trigger?

Vitiligo is still not a well-explored disease. However, some theories suggest its origin:

  • Neuroendocrine. It was first described by the American scientist Richard A. Lerner in 1959. He linked the occurrence of the disease with a violation of the nervous system function. He connected the appearance of vitiligo with the origin of nerve cells and melanocytes. These cells also use tyrosine, which is responsible for the production of melanin.
  • Autoimmune. It was suggested by scientist A.Lorincz in 1959. He described the mechanism of immune failure, where melanocytes became the target as foreign cells. The second scenario is when the cells take different form under the influence of pathogenic factors.
  • Autodestruction. This theory explains the development of vitiligo due to lysis of phagocytosis and melanocytes by Langerhans cells. This hypothesis was suggested by the scientists S.Bleehen and M.Pathak in 1965. However, it didn’t become popular.
  • Biochemical imbalance. Based on studies, this theory considers a violation of the oxidative balance and antioxidant protection to be the main reason of vitiligo. In other words, the accumulation of free radicals in the skin and a decrease of enzymatic activity contribute to the damage of melanocytes and cause further depigmentation.
  • The hypothesis of the genetic origin of vitiligo is associated with the discovery of the NALP1 gene. The observation was made by a group of English scientists in 2007. This discovery expanded the possibilities of treatment and prevention.

How to treat

Patients, especially women, are seeking professional medical help more often since vitiligo is mostly a cosmetic defect. Vitiligo therapy includes measures that are supposed to prolong periods of remissions:

  • control of the chronic diseases that can cause recurrence of skin symptoms;
  • avoiding sun exposure, use of protective cosmetics;
  • balanced diet;
  • psychotherapy reduces the risk of vitiligo aggravation;
  • symptomatic treatment;
  • local treatment to eliminate the cosmetic defect.

Recent studies have shown that the affected skin is sensitive to ultraviolet rays. Today, UVB lamps are successfully used to remove local vitiligo symptoms and prolong the remission periods. You may notice the first positive results after the first week of use.

Posted: June 23, 2017 by UVB-lamps Team 277
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