Causes of Vitiligo
Although researchers don't know the exact reason vitiligo occurs, several theories abound. Some researchers think vitiligo may be an autoimmune disease, while others believe that melanocytes in the skin destroy themselves. Some people have reported that single events, such as sunburns or emotional stress, triggered vitiligo; however, these events have not been scientifically proven to cause the condition.
The cause or causes of vitiligo are unknown, but doctors and researchers have several different theories.
One theory is that vitiligo may be an autoimmune disease. These diseases happen when your immune system mistakenly attacks some part of your body. In vitiligo, the immune system may destroy the melanocytes in the skin. It is also possible that one or more genes may make a person more likely to get vitiligo.
Another theory is that melanocytes destroy themselves. Also, some people have reported that a single event, such as sunburn or emotional distress, triggered vitiligo; however, these events have not been scientifically proven to be a cause of vitiligo.
While not vitiligo causes, per se, certain factors seem to increase a person's chances of developing it. Issues known to be vitiligo risk factors include certain autoimmune diseases and a family history of the disease.
Vitiligo seems to be more common in people with certain autoimmune diseases, including:
- Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland)
- Adrenocortical insufficiency (Addison's disease)
- Alopecia areata (patches of baldness)
- Pernicious anemia (a low level of red blood cells caused by failure of the body to absorb vitamin B12).
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.