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leucoderma

Leucoderma, also known as vitiligo, is a distressing skin condition. The word literally means white skin. There is a gradual loss of the pigment melanin from the skin layers which results in white patches The condition does not cause any organic harm. This disease is caused neither by any germs, nor is it due to bad blood. It is considered to be neither infectious nor contagious.

Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) in the skin are destroyed. As a result, white patches appear on the skin in different parts of the body. Similar patches also appear on both the mucous membranes (tissues that line the inside of the mouth and nose), and the retina (inner layer of the eyeball). The hair that grows on areas affected by vitiligo sometimes turns white.

The cause of vitiligo is not known, but doctors and researchers have several different theories. There is strong evidence that people with vitiligo inherit a group of three genes that make them susceptible to depigmentation. The most widely accepted view is that the depigmentation occurs because vitiligo is an autoimmune disease — a disease in which a person’s immune system reacts against the body’s own organs or tissues.

The disorder affects both sexes and all races equally; however, it is more noticeable in people with dark skin.Scientists do not know the reason for the association between vitiligo and these autoimmune diseases. However, most people with vitiligo have no other autoimmune disease.Vitiligo may also be hereditary; that is, it can run in families. Children whose parents have the disorder are more likely to develop vitiligo. In fact, 30 percent of people with vitiligo have a family member with the disease. However, only 5 to 7 percent of children will get vitiligo even if a parent has it, and most people with vitiligo do not have a family history of the disorder.

Vitiligo generally appears in one of three patterns:

1. focal pattern — the depigmentation is limited to one or only a few areas
2. segmental pattern — depigmented patches develop on only one side of the body
3. generalized pattern — the most common pattern. Depigmentation occurs symmetrically on both sides of the body.

The diagnosis of vitiligo is made based on a physical examination, medical history, and laboratory tests.

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