Vitiligo (vit-ih-LI-go) is a condition in which your skin loses melanin, the pigment that determines the color of your skin, hair and eyes. Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or no longer form melanin, causing slowly enlarging white patches of irregular shapes to appear on your skin.
Vitiligo affects all races, but may be more noticeable and disfiguring in people with darker skin. Vitiligo usually starts as small areas of pigment loss that spread with time. These changes in your skin can result in stress and worries about your appearance.
There is no cure for vitiligo. The goal of treatment is to stop or slow the progression of pigment loss and, if you desire, attempt to return some color to your skin.
Picture showing vitiligo patches on top of the hand Vitiligo
Illustration of the layers of your skin Skin layers and melanin
Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses its pigment cells (melanocytes). This results in white patches appearing on the skin in different areas of the body. Vitiligo can affect any part of the body.
The main sign of vitiligo is:
* Pigment loss that produces milky-white patches (depigmentation) on your skin
Other less common signs may include:
* Premature whitening or graying of the hair on your scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard
* Loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of your mouth (mucous membranes)
* Loss of or change in color of the inner layer of your eye (retina)
Although any part of your body may be affected by vitiligo, depigmentation usually develops first on sun-exposed areas of your skin, such as your hands, feet, arms, face and lips. Although it can start at any age, vitiligo often first appears between the ages of 10 and 30. Vitiligo generally appears in one of three patterns:
* Focal. Depigmentation is limited to one or a few areas of your body.
* Segmental. Loss of skin color occurs on only one side of your body.
* Generalized. Pigment loss is widespread across many parts of your body, often symmetrically.
The natural course of vitiligo is difficult to predict. Sometimes the patches stop forming without treatment. But, in most cases, pigment loss spreads and can eventually involve most of the surface of your skin.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if areas of your skin, hair or eyes lose coloring. Although there's no cure for vitiligo, treatments exist that may help to stop or slow the process of depigmentation and attempt to return some color to your skin.
Vitiligo occurs when melanin