What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a non-contagious skin disorder that causes loss of color in the skin, and appears as white patches. Although it can occur on any area of the body, vitligo most commonly occurs on the face, lips, arms, hands, legs, and genital area. The condition is not uncommon, with about one to two percent of the world?s population suffering from vitiligo.

What are the causes of vitiligo?

The exact cause of vitligo is not known, but researchers believe the condition is caused by a combination of environmental, genetic, and autoimmune factors. The condition occurs when melanocytes, the cells which produce the skin?s color, die or lose their ability to produce pigment.

What are the risk factors of Vitiligo?

Vitiligo often runs in familes, with about 20 percent of all individuals who have vitiligo also having a family member with the condition. Most individuals who develop vitligo are in general good health, although some individuals with other autoimmune disorders also develop vitiligo. Since the cause is unknown, the only potential risk factors which have been tentatively identified are genetic predisposition and autoimmune disorders.

What are they symptoms of Vitiligo?

Vitiligo becomes apparent when one or more areas of the skin loses pigment for no apparent reason. In its usual course, vitiligo develops rapidly with loss of pigmentation occurring in one or more areas of the body. In most individuals, this condition occurs in cycles, with periods of pigment loss followed by periods when there is no change in pigment. In virtually all cases, skin pigmentation does not return on its own and there is no way to predict how much pigment will be lost in any given individual. Light-skinned individuals may not notice vitiligo until warmer months, when areas of the body fail to tan when exposed to the sun.

What types of treatment are available for vitiligo?

There is no cure for vitiligo, but the loss of skin color which is its symptom can be treated. In many fair-skinned individuals, the only necessary treatment is to avoid sun exposure, since lack of pigment is often not noticeable when there is no suntan. Those with darker skin may opt to use tinted makeup, special skin stains or self-tanning agents to achieve a temporary cover-up. Some individuals can benefit from micropigmentation tattooing.

When these temporary measures are not satisfactory, your specialist may advise a treatment to restore some pigmentation, or a series of procedures to remove the body?s pigment. In most cases, treatments aimed at returning pigment are temporary, although longer lasting than self-tanners and stains.

Light therapies and topical corticosteroids have been shown to be effective in returning pigmentation to many patients suffering from vitiligo. A new class of drugs called ?immunomodulators? may also aid in vitiligo treatment, but are usually reserved for patients who do not respond to other treatments. Patients may also respond to excimer laser treatment.

For individuals who have lost most of their natural pigment, depigmentation therapy removes the remaining pigment, resulting in an even, white tone overall. This treatment takes about a year to complete and pigmentation removal is permanent.
Have specific questions?

All Article Categories

Before & After Photos

Suggested Doctors

Recently Asked Questions