Learn About Vitiligo

What is the definition of Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a skin condition in which there is a loss of color (pigment) from areas of skin. This results in uneven white patches that have no pigment, but the skin feels normal.

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What are the alternative names for Vitiligo?

Autoimmune disorder - vitiligo

What are the causes of Vitiligo?

Vitiligo occurs when immune cells destroy the cells that make brown pigment (melanocytes). This destruction is thought to be due to an autoimmune problem. An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body's immune system, which normally protects the body from infection, attacks and destroys healthy body tissue instead. The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown.

Vitiligo may appear at any age. There is an increased rate of the condition in some families.

Vitiligo is associated with other autoimmune diseases:

  • Addison disease (disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones)
  • Thyroid disease
  • Pernicious anemia (decrease in red blood cells that occurs when the intestines cannot properly absorb vitamin B12)
  • Type 1 diabetes
What are the symptoms of Vitiligo?

Flat areas of normal-feeling skin without any pigment appear suddenly or gradually. These areas have a darker border. The edges are well defined, but irregular.

Vitiligo most often affects the face, elbows and knees, back of the hands and feet, and genitals. It affects both sides of the body equally.

Vitiligo is more noticeable in darker-skinned people because of the contrast of white patches against dark skin.

No other skin changes occur.

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What are the current treatments for Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is difficult to treat. Early treatment options include the following:

  • Phototherapy, a medical procedure in which your skin is carefully exposed to limited amounts of ultraviolet light. Phototherapy may be given alone, or after you take a drug that makes your skin sensitive to light. A dermatologist performs this treatment.
  • Certain lasers may help the skin repigment.
  • Medicines applied to the skin, such as corticosteroid creams or ointments, immunosuppressant creams or ointments such as pimecrolimus (Elidel) and tacrolimus (Protopic), or topical drugs such as methoxsalen (Oxsoralen) may also help.

Skin may be moved (grafted) from normally pigmented areas and placed onto areas where there is pigment loss.

Several cover-up makeups or skin dyes can mask vitiligo. Ask your provider for the names of these products.

In extreme cases when most of the body is affected, the remaining skin that still has pigment may be depigmented, or bleached. This is a permanent change that is used as a last option.

It is important to remember that skin without pigment is at greater risk for sun damage. Be sure to apply a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB), high-SPF sunscreen or sunblock. Sunscreen can also be helpful for making the condition less noticeable, because unaffected skin may not darken in the sun. Use other safeguards against sun exposure, such as wearing a hat with a broad rim and long sleeve shirt and pants.

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What are the support groups for Vitiligo?

More information and support for people with vitiligo condition and their families can be found at:

  • Vitiligo Support International - vitiligosupport.org
What is the outlook (prognosis) for Vitiligo?

The course of vitiligo varies and is unpredictable. Some areas may regain normal pigment (coloring), but other new areas of pigment loss may appear. Skin that is repigmented may be slightly lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. Pigment loss may get worse over time.

When should I contact a medical professional for Vitiligo?

Contact your provider for an appointment if areas of your skin lose their coloring for no reason (for example, there was no injury to the skin).

Vitiligo - drug induced
Vitiligo on the face
Vitiligo on the back and arm
What are the latest Vitiligo Clinical Trials?
Evaluating the Efficacy of the Melanocyte Keratinocyte Transplantation Procedure in the Treatment of Vitiligo

Summary: Vitiligo is a dermatologic disease characterized by depigmentation of the skin. While the loss of melanocytes observed in vitiligo is driven by the immune system, repigmentation of the skin that occurs during UV light treatment is driven by melanocytes that migrate out of the hair follicle and into the epidermis or the activation of stem cells within the epidermis. Unfortunately, some skin areas a...

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Efficacy of Tofacitinib in Vitiligo-a Randomized Controlled Trial in a Selected Tertiary Level Hospital in Dhaka

Summary: Standard treatment for vitiligo often has unsatisfactory outcomes. With a new understanding of pathogenesis, novel drugs have been introduced which have shown to be effective in small-scale studies. Tofacitinib, a Janus kinase(JAK) inhibitor-2 has shown promising results in the treatment of vitiligo. However, randomized controlled studies are required to confirm these observations and identify the...

What are the Latest Advances for Vitiligo?
Microneedling and 5-flurouracil can enhance the efficacy of non-cultured epidermal cell suspension transplantation for resistant acral vitiligo.
Systematic Evaluation and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials of Fire Needle Combined Phototherapy for the Treatment of Vitiligo.
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Meta-analysis of the efficacy of adding platelet-rich plasma to 308-nm excimer laser for patients with vitiligo.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: May 31, 2022
Published By: Elika Hoss, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Dinulos JGH. Light-related diseases and disorders of pigmentation. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 19.

Passeron T, Ortonne J-P. Vitiligo and other disorders of hypopigmentation. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 66.

Patterson JW. Disorders of pigmentation. In: Patterson JW, ed. Weedon's Skin Pathology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 11.