Leucoderma is a chronic disorder of the skin where the skin stops producing pigments that color the skin. As a result white patches appear randomly at different locations on the skin. These patches are white in color and as time passes may increase in number and size. Leucoderma is not a medical term. It is only a substitute name for vitiligo. Vitiligo is a more common name for this disease in the west where as in Asia leucoderma is used more.
The Skin is colored in different shades of brown due to a pigment called melanin.Special cells called melanocytes are responsible for the production of melanin. Sometimes, for reasons dubious, the melanocytes stop producing melanin which results in white skin patches.
There are many explanations as to why this happens but none of these explanations has been proven to be the right one. This also explains why there is no confirmed cure for leucoderma. Even after extensive scientific research, the treatments of leucoderma are still very scarce and have not been proven to work for a majority of people. The best patients can do is hide these marks with colored creams but it is to be noted, this only hides these marks and doesn't stop more patches of white skin from appearing. There is no explanation as to the location of these patches of skin. Also, a question that may rise is why only patches appear and not the whole body is affected. For this too there is no proven explanation.
About 0.5% to 2% of the worlds population currently suffer from leucoderma. Leucoderma is not a contagiuos disease so there is no way a person can have leucoderma just by being around another person having it. Even though this is a proven fact, patients suffering from leucoderma often aren't accepted well in the social world. This often results in the patients suffering from depressive disorders.
As mentioned above, the reason for leucoderma is still not very clear. However some theories are present and are as follows The first and most supported theory is autoimmune. In this case, the bodies self defense mechanism mistakes the melanocytes as foreign particles and destroys them thus putting melanin production to a halt. There is evidence that points towards this theory and tests are being carried out to determine if this is accurate and how to stop this.
The second theory suggests that the oxidant-antioxidant system of the body is, for an unknown reason, disturbed resulting in loss of melanocytes. A third theory is more based on statistical data than research. Statistics suggest that if a parent has leucoderma, his/her child will have a higher risk of having leucoderma than the rest of the population. So this theory suggests that a genetic factor is present in the causes of this disease. A fourth theory suggests that leucoderma is a direct cause of nerve damage. This can also be true as in a type of leucoderma called as segmental vitiligo, the areas of skin affected are often the areas in contact with the dorsal root of the spinal chord.
Its very hard to find a proper cure for a disease, the reason to which is still unknown. There are many leucoderma treatments but none of them are proven 100% successful.
Using colored creams and tanning creams to hide the patches of skin is a more common method. This hides the patches but requires a lot of time to apply the creams and the drawback is it doesnt prevent more spots from appearing.
Steroid creams are also very commonly used. Steroid affects the immune system of the body by weakening it. So when a steroid cream is applied to the skin, the antibodies in the skin are weakened and they stop attacking the melanocytes and melanin production is resumed. It is to be noted that this treatment does not guarantee that the patches will not appear again. Also, steroid creams can not be used continuously for as long as one wishes to use them. Steroids have serious side-affects which include permanent thinning of the skin and appearance of stretch marks on area of application, which are also permanent. Steroid creams also make the skin less resistant to infections.
A more advanced but complicated method is giving specific medicinal drugs and expose patient to ultra violet light in special UV radiation chambers. This causes serious sunburns and skin freckling. Also it is very time consuming and once again, doesn't guarantee results.
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