Are white patches hereditary?

White patches, also termed, as "Leukoderma" or "Vitiligo" is a pigmentation disorder in the human skin. This is a disorder in which your body breaks up its own pigment cells into various parts of the skin. Our skin contains special cells that produce the melanin pigment that colors the skin. Vitiligo, the special skin cells as well as the tissues that line the inside of most parts of our body are damaged. As a result of these damages cells white patches start to appear on different parts of the body. Hair growing in the affected area also starts turning white. The condition is most visible in summer, when normal skin darkens. Because of the lack of defensive pigment, the affected areas are also likely to burn and sore in the sun. There are various theories as to the cause of these white patches, but the real cause is still not completely known. One such theory is that people with Vitiligo develop antibodies that destroy their own melanocytes instead of protecting them. While some say that it could even be caused due to a single event such as harsh sunburn or a severe episode of emotional distress could trigger this disorder.

These white patches could be hereditary in some cases. Children born to parents affected by this disorder are more likely to develop Vitiligo; however it is very possible that most children will not get Vitiligo if a single parent suffers from this disorder. Twenty five percent of all patients with this disorder reportedly have a family history, either of the same disorder or another autoimmune disorder. In such cases, this disorder seems to be inherited as a prevailing characteristic. What this means is that it could affect one of the offspring of an affected parent and half the siblings of the patient. This disorder may also occur at the spot of a wound to the skin and may at first show itself in scars or burns.

Leukoderma or vitiligo, is occasionally passed down through generations. If the Vitiligo is found to be hereditary there is a good chance of not finding a possible cure for the person who has inherited this trait. This is because if the disorder has been handed down over generations, the severity of the disease may well be aggravated over time. About 40-50 million people suffer from Vitiligo and in the US alone; 2-5 million people have this disorder. 95% of the people who have Vitiligo develop it before turning 40, and this disorder affects all races and both sexes equally.

answered by G M

Your question is not clear - exactly what white patches are you referring to? Most likely these would be white patches on your skin, but the location and nature of these patches on your body remain unspecified. In any case, the patches are unlikely to be hereditary. One major possibility, particularly if the skin patches are entirely white, is leukoderma or vitiligo. This is a condition in which skin pigmentation is lost. Initially, small white spots or patches appear, and these then gradually start to spread. In some cases, the loss of pigmentation extends to the entire body, while in others it may be limited to the extremities. The condition is relatively harmless, except for an increased sensitivity to sunlight. What affects people most is the consciousness of the unusual physical appearance. Unfortunately, treatment options are also limited and not always successful.

However, the white patches may also be due to some sort of fungal infection. This may be the case if the skin only looks lighter and either rough, dry, or inflamed, rather than if it lacks pigmentation. Some vitamin or mineral deficiencies could also cause lightening of patches of skin. Whatever the cause, it is unlikely to be hereditary, so you should visit your doctor and find out what can be done to remedy it.

answered by G M

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