What are the causes of vitiligo?
Despite advanced research, medicine is still trying to figure out the exact cause of Vitiligo. Scientists have not completely understood the disorder and there are numerous theories. However a genetic predisposition or susceptibility to vitiligo exists in most people who develop vitiligo.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system sees the persons own melanoyctyes as foreign bodies and mistakenly attacks and destroys them. It can also be attributed to an abnormally functioning nervous system which may produce substances that injures melanocytes.
It is found that people with a genetic predisposition are more likely to suffer from vitiligo. In about 10% of families where a person has vitiligo the condition is seen in another family member. Though no one else in your family may show signs of vitiligo it is still possible that it is passed on genetically.
The most likely reason for this is that genes are inherited in a random fashion from both parents, so only sometimes will the genes which make a person susceptible to vitiligo come together in the same person. Those who do not inherit a complete set of the abnormal genes are unlikely to develop the disorder. Those people who do inherit a complete set may also need some other factor to trigger the vitiligo patches to appear. In this way vitiligo genes can pass through several generations of a family without anyone actually developing vitiligo.
Vitiligo can be caused because of oxidative stress in which there is an over-accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the skin. Every person develops hydrogen peroxide in the skin, as a result of natural biological processes. An enzyme called catalase normally breaks down the hydrogen peroxide in the skin into water and oxygen. However, some people with vitiligo may have a problem manufacturing, using or delivering catalase to the skin.
The most common chemical that can induce white patches on the skin is para-phenylene diamine (PPD) in hair dyes. As PPD can also be found in black socks and footwear, the white patches may also affect the feet. Chemically induced white patches are also caused due to contact with para-tertiary butyl phenol (PTBP) found in adhesive bindi, cleansing and cosmetic products or in deodorants. The white patch initially presents at the site of application but can spread beyond the area as well.
Emotional stress, grief and traumatic events have been found to trigger vitiligo. The melanocytes are more susceptible to the damaging chemicals produced during emotional stress.
Hormonal phases like puberty, pregnancy, menopause, thyroid abnormalities, uncontrolled diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome can trigger vitiligo in people who are susceptible.
Scratches or common wounds or serious lesions from accidents, or severe sun burns can trigger vitiligo.
Diet, nutrition and digestive disorders may play a role in the destruction of melanocytes. Deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12, folate, copper and zinc have been associated.