If you, or a loved one, suffer from vitiligo you will know how traumatic it can be. The psychological effects of any disfigurement (e.g. a burn, scar or birthmark) can be difficult enough to deal with, especially if it affects your face. But a condition that can alter your appearance on a daily basis, leaving you wondering what you will see in the mirror the next time you look, can cause the sort of mental trauma that cannot really be comprehended by anyone who has not experienced it first-hand.
Happily, there are more encouraging advances in vitiligo research being reported now than at any time in the past, but there still does not appear to be any real agreement as to the root cause of the pigment loss that characterises the condition. To my mind, this strongly suggests that there is no single trigger for this but rather a variety of different ones, any or all of which can cause the onset of the condition. I have posted on most of these over the past few months but have not – until now - mentioned one of the more commonly reported triggers: physical trauma.
#Physicaltrauma does not have to be dramatic to result in pigment loss. It can include #friction from tight clothing or other rubbing action (this effect is known as the #Koebner phenomenon), minor cuts, scrapes, stings and injections, as well as the major league stuff like surgical incisions and serious flesh wounds. Interestingly, most people experience loss of pigment at the site of inoculations and surgical scars and some people never regain their normal skin colour following minor cuts and abrasions. Most of these people do not go on to develop vitiligo as a result. Yet a small percentage of the population do develop vitiligo and can trace its onset back to a particular physical trauma and many people with existing vitiligo experience a worsening of their pigment loss around the sites of such events. So, it does seem clear that, even though physical trauma is highly unlikely to be the root cause of vitiligo it is certainly a fairly common trigger.
Some of the historical research into this subject can be found here. And more recent research, carried out by Dr Matteo Bordignon of the University of Padua, Italy, has identified a protein (MIA: Melanoma Inhibitory Activity) that may be the main factor affecting the development of vitiligo. According to Dr Bordignon, this protein is not only the reason why people with vitiligo - contrary to popular belief - have a lower risk of skin cancer, but it also interferes with the normal adhesion of melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) to the basal membrane in the skin, causing them to detach and white patches to develop in those areas. His findings add weight to other research suggesting that physical trauma often plays a role in this process of melanocyte detachment.
This research certainly seems to represent a significant breakthrough in the quest for an effective medical treatment for vitiligo, so I am very encouraged by it. And, in the meantime, my attitude is that we all have access to other treatments that have been proven to be effective to varying degrees e.g. (light therapy, pseudocatalase, nutritional cures, etc.) so let's be positive about our prognosis and let's spread the word that a definitive cure is getting closer and that having vitiligo does not have to be a life sentence.
A vitiligo blogger since 2011. My name is Caroline. I had vitiligo for nearly 50 years before finding an effective treatment. I created this blog to share my experiences with others affected by this skin condition.