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Who is Affected by Vitiligo, and Is Vitiligo Inherited?

The skin pigmentation disorder of Vitiligo, caused by the malfunctioning of the cells that make pigment in the skin (melanocytes), is a common skin disorder around the globe. This skin disease destroys the melanocytes in the skin, the mucous membranes (tissues that line the inside of the mouth and nose, as well as genital and rectal areas), and the retina (inner layer of the eyeball). As a result, smooth white or light pink patches of skin appear on different parts of the body. The hair that grows in areas affected by Vitiligo usually turns white as well.

Vitiligo has affected almost 1 to 2 percent of the world’s population, which makes about 40 to 50 million people. And in the United States alone, this skin disorder has affected 2 to 5 million people. Vitiligo can be found in anyone, regardless of their race, sex, and age. However, it has mostly been seen in people less than 40 years in age.

The exact causes of Vitiligo have not yet been found, but several different theories by doctors and researchers have emerged over the years. Though some of these theories suggest that Vitiligo seems to be more common in people with certain autoimmune diseases, including Adrenocortical insufficiency (Addison’s disease), Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland), Alopecia areata (patches of baldness), and Pernicious anemia (a low level of red blood cells caused by failure of the body to absorb vitamin B12), others suggest that Vitiligo may also be hereditary. This means that children whose parents have the disorder are more likely to develop the condition. However, this is not 100% accurate, just like other theories. Most children will not get Vitiligo even if a parent has it, and most people with Vitiligo do not have a family history of the disorder.

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