Vitiligo involves a progressive loss of melanocytes from the epidermis and hair follicles. Milky-white patches appear resulting in cosmetic disfiguration that is most apparent in dark-skinned individuals. The disease is further classified according to distribution pattern and extent of depigmentation. The presence of several clinical subtypes may reflect the diversity in causative factors. To select appropriate therapeutic measures, it is impatient to distinguish vitiligo from other disorders that afloat melanocyte function. Although vitiligo has a characteristic clinical appearance and histological features, the presence of early or atypical lesions often requires the exclusion of other disorders such as postinflammatory hypopigmentation and piebaldism. Multiple hypotheses have been put forward to explain vitiligo. An inherited tendency to develop depigmentation may involve the inherent aberrancies that have been observed in nonlesional vitiligo melanocytes in viva as well as in vitro. These abnormalities potentially render vitiliginous melanocytes more vulnerable to assaults from extracellular factors. Such factors include keratinocyte physiology, extracellular matrix composition, humoral and cellular immunity, and environmental agents. Therapies aimed at repopulation of lesional skin include phototherapy, application of topical corticosteroids, and transplantation of skin or skin cells. Moreover, micropigmentation or camouflage can be used to restore a pigmented appearance to lesional skin. In patients in which vitiligo affects extensive areas of the body, depigmentation may be the treatment of choice. In all, this acquired pigmentary disorder can be treated in a variety of ways and should not be regarded as an untreatable affliction.
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