Pigment is another word for color. Almost every human being has pigment in their skin. Skin cells give your skin pigment by utilizing levels of melanin. Melanin production can become affected when these skins cells become damaged or unhealthy. Several skin disorders associated with pigmentation and melanin levels are albinism (a genetic condition with little to no melanin which affects the whole body), Vitiligo (where the body has sharp white patches) and from scars, blisters and burns.
I am going to give you a little more information about the second skin disorder mentioned. It is called Vitiligo. Vitiligo can affect persons from 2 years old to 40 years old. The disease is caused when the body’s immune system attacks itself. The body’s immune cells attack the body’s color producing cells (melanocytes) which cause distinct white patches on the skin.
It is often assumed that Vitiligo appears in black skinned and darker skinned people however that is just a myth. Vitiligo is indiscriminant of color, race, creed and background. It can affect white people just as much as it affects black people. The reason it is often assumed that it occurs more in darker skinned races is because of its notability. It is much easier to see on a dark skinned person than on a light skinned person.
My son is Caucasian in his ethnicity. He has Vitiligo. At first it seemed that he had a little birthmark on his leg. The only odd thing about this birthmark was its color. Instead of being a brown spot or a rose colored spot, this spot was white. I chalked this up to my family’s uniqueness. I was wrong.
As the years progressed I did not really notice my son’s skin except when checking him for rashes (which he got often when he was sick) and making sure he was clean in the bath. Now he is old enough to shower by himself so I rarely see him naked. He is 7 and likes his privacy now. It took me a little time and a trip to the beach before I really saw something odd about my son’s skin.
Getting ready for a trip to the beach I noticed as I helped him pull on his sandals that his feet have white spots all over them. Some patches are large and some are small but they are distinctly lighter than his already white skin tone. He is very fair with almost white blond hair and blue eyes. The patches were very obvious. Checking him out thoroughly I found the patches on his knees, elbows, feet and near his throat.
I called and asked the doctor what this could possibly be. Vitiligo is what I was told with a brief explanation about what it was and a few recommendations. There is not much a person can do who has this disease. The best things for a person to do who has Vitiligo is to use a sunscreen of SPF 45 thoroughly on the skin, wear protective clothing and hats, try not to go out in the sun between the hours of 10am and 3pm and/or apply makeup to the effected area.
Persons with Vitiligo are very susceptible to sunburn because of the lack of melanin in the skin to protect the skin from sun damage. Vitiligo can be found on one area of the body and remain that way or it can spread. There is no cure for Vitiligo although your doctor may prescribe topical creams, skin grafts or UV light therapies for severe conditions.
My son is young enough that he will learn to live with Vitiligo. He already thinks it’s great that he is like a leopard that keeps changing his spots. For more information about this skin disorder and other skin disorders like it please check out my sources for this article.