What causes vitiligo?

There are many theories about what causes vitiligo, and no one is positively certain. However in most cases, it is believed that Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body's immune system sees the pigment cells in the skin as foreign bodies, and attacks them. The basis for this autoimmune disorder is thought by many to be genetic. It is believed by many that stress, traumatic events, injury, or severe sunburns, may trigger or exacerbate vitiligo in those who are susceptible.

Other theories include the possibility that an abnormally functioning nervous system may produce a substance that injures melanocytes. Some believe that melanocytes in vitiligo patients may self-destruct, releasing toxic byproducts that then destroy other pigment cells. Another theory suggests that vitiligo is entirely genetic, and that there is a defect in the melanocytes that makes them more susceptible to injury.

We know that some cases of vitiligo arise from exposure to certain chemicals, for example, phenols used in photography. Surgery wounds or injuries to the skin have also been known to result in vitiligo, which can spread. The question is, are those people susceptible to vitiligo to begin with. Many experts say yes.

Finally, there are alternative theories about vitiligo that suggest diet, nutrition, and digestive disorders may play a role in the destruction of melanocytes. Some believe that internal pathogens within the digestive tract, such as yeast proliferation, might relate to vitiligo.