Vitiligo is a long-term skin condition characterized by patches of the skin losing their pigment. The patches of skin affected become white and usually have sharp margins. The hair from the skin may also become white. The inside of the mouth and nose may also be involved. Typically both sides of the body are affected. Often the patches begin on areas of skin that are exposed to the sun. It is more noticeable in people with dark skin. Vitiligo may result in psychological stress and those affected may be stigmatized
The only sign of vitiligo is the presence of pale patchy areas of depigmented skin which tend to occur on the extremities. Some people may experience itching before a new patch occurs. The patches are initially small, but often grow and change shape. When skin lesions occur, they are most prominent on the face, hands and wrists.The loss of skin pigmentation is particularly noticeable around body orifices, such as the mouth, eyes, nostrils, genitalia and umbilicus. Some lesions have increased skin pigment around the edges.
The TYR gene encodes the protein tyrosinase, which is not a component of the immune system, but is an enzyme of the melanocyte that catalyzes melanin biosynthesis, and a major autoantigen in generalized vitiligo. The National Institutes of Health states that some believe that sunburns can cause or exacerbate the condition, but that this idea is not well-supported by good evidence.
Variations in genes that are part of the immune system or part of melanocytes have both been associated with vitiligo. It is also thought to be caused by the immune system attacking and destroying the melanocytes of the skin. A genomewide association study found approximately 36 independent susceptibility loci for generalized vitiligo