Understanding Vitiligo: Melanin Failure

This right here is Winnie Harlow, a Canadian model, spokesperson and activist. She gained fame and popularity as one of the participants on the 21st Edition of the Television series America’s Next Top Model. She is well-known for her prominent form of the skin condition – vitiligo.

Vitiligo is a condition where pale and white patches develop on the skin due to insufficient melanocytes that produce melanin. Lack of the pigment melanin in the integument causes vitiligo. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes and it is responsible for giving the skin its colour – black, white, plum e.t.c.

Vitiligo is not limited to one particular part of the dermis; it can affect any area of the skin. It commonly occurs on the face (around the mouth and eyes), neck, hands (fingers and wrists), armpits, pubic region and even in skin creases- palmar especially.

The thin dermis is more vulnerable to sunburn so it is necessary to be precautious when in the sun. Lack of melanin in these vulnerable areas can turn the hair volume to white or grey.

A common characteristic is the fact that it does not cause dryness and discomfort but the patches may get scratchy once in a while.

Vitiligo varies from person to person. The patches are wider and not evenly distributed. Other people get small and thinner white patches that meet across larger parts on the skin.

Vitiligo is triggered by some events such as stress especially during childbirth, skin damage such as severe suburn or lesion (cut). A common trigger is the one of chemicals, especially those that work in chemical sites and laboratories.

It can never be contacted by touch or transmitted as an infection.

Vitiligo could be diagnosed;

  1. there is a history of it in the family.
  2. there is a history of other autoimmune conditions in the family.

 

 

This article was written by Alex Ndace.

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