Who Gets Vitiligo?
Vitiligo appears to affect at least 1% to 2% of the population, irrespective of sex, race, or age. Series have been reported from across the globe. The more dark skinned a person is, the more their vitiligo stands out, because of the contrast between affected and unaffected areas of skin. This may account for the apparent higher prevalence of vitiligo in some countries with darker-skinned populations. Vitiligo has become a marked social stigma in countries such as India, where opportunities for social advancement or marriage among affected individuals are severely limited even today.
In half of all vitiligo cases, onset occurs between the ages of 10 and 30. There are a few reported cases of vitiligo present at birth. Onset in old age also rarely occurs.
Over 30% of affected individuals may report a positive family history. Up to four loci are now considered responsible for vitiligo. Vitiligo in identical twins has been reported. The risk for children of affected individuals is unknown, but may be less than 10%. People from families with an increased prevalence of thyroid disease, diabetes mellitus, and vitiligo appear to be at increased risk for development of vitiligo.
Both predisposing (genetic) and precipitating (environmental) factors contribute to vitiligo. Many patients attribute the onset of their vitiligo to physical trauma, illness, or emotional stress. Onset following the death of a relative or after severe physical injury is often mentioned. Even sunburn reaction may precipitate vitiligo.