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What Is the Difference Between Vitiligo & Leukoderma?

By JaKaye Jesse ; Updated July 27, 2017

Leukoderma (leucoderma) is de-pigmentation of the skin marked by the localization or destruction of melanocytes. White patches are closely bounded on the skin. According to RightHealth.com, vitiligo is a form of leukoderma. The progressive skin disorder is called vitiligo when the condition occurs without any previously associated disease that can be linked with the onset of the condition. Mayoclinic.com, Depression-guide.com and other web sites use the term vitiligo synonymously to describe leukoderma.

Condition

Leukoderma (vitiligo) the skin disorder is identified by the white patches that form in small areas but enlarge on the body over a period of time. The condition affects all ages and races, but generally begins to appear on the skin between the ages of 10 years and 30 years and is more noticeable in people with darker skin tones. The skin disorder is more of a social problem than a disease because the skin condition affects the appearance of the individual turning the skin white.

Symptoms

The most recognizable symptom of vitiligo is pigment loss that produces milky-white patches on the skin. De-pigmentation appears on the sun-exposed areas of the body such as the hands, feet, face, arms and lips. The mucous membranes on the inside of your mouth may lose their coloring. The inner layer of your eye (retina) may lose or change coloring. A less common sign is the premature graying or whitening of the hair, scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard.

Patterns

The discoloration of the skin associated with leukoderma or vitiligo has certain patterns associated with the disease. When the discoloration on the skin is focal the patches on the skin is limited to one or a few areas of the body. When the de-pigmentation occurs on one side of the body the condition is segmental. If pigment loss is symmetrically spread across the body then the discoloration is generalized whitening of the skin.

Causes

The medical world doesn’t know why de-pigmentation occurs. Generally, the cells in the epidermis that produces the dark pigment (melanin) in or your skin begins to die or no longer produces melanin which causes white patches to slowly appear, enlarge, and spread over the body. There are several theories why leukoderma occurs: the condition is caused by an immune system disorder, high levels of stress, chronic gastric conditions, worms or parasites in the intestinal walls, typhoid, burn injuries, or the condition could be hereditary.

Diagnosis

A physician can diagnose a patient as having vitiligo by looking at the skin under a light to determine if the skin discoloration has a milky-white appearance. Your physician may recommend that you see a specialist usually a dermatologist that can conduct a skin-biopsy to rule out other causes of the pigmentation loss. Also, a blood test can be drawn in order to check the levels of the thyroid, hormones, or vitamin B12 levels. Autoimmunity can be associated with leukoderma and there are three systematic diseases: pernicious arenia, hyperthyroidism, and Addison’s disease that can be contributors to de-pigmentation of the skin.

Treatments

Treatments for leukoderma (vitiligo) have a certain amount of effectiveness and have their own limitations. Treatment for the skin condition can include internal medicines, topical cremes, radiation therapy, photo-sensitivity therapy and de-pigmentation therapy. Consult a physician or specialist (dermatologist) to determine which course of treatment will be best for you.

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