Vitiligo usually affects the skin on the body but other areas such as the scalp, lips and genitals can also be affected. Patches of hair can turn white. It develops because colour producing cells in our skin called melanocytes, die.
Scientists have not completely understood why these cells die. Multiple factors such as genetics, a faulty immune system which attacks its own cells (auto-immunity), and increased free radical-induced damage (oxidative stress) may be causative. Certain factors such as skin injury and severe sunburn can cause development of new patches in a predisposed individual.
There are some factors which have been implicated in aggravating Vitiligo, though no definitive proof has been found for any of these; they include emotional stress, pregnancy and illness. Deficiencies of vitamin B12, folate, copper and zinc have been associated.
Those whose parents have Vitiligo and associated autoimmune diseases are more likely to get it as compared to the general population. Though in most cases there is no family history of the condition. Anyone can get this skin disorder.