What Is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a skin pigmentation disorder that causes the skin to produce less melanin, the pigment responsible for
skin, eye, and hair color. The location, rate of spread, and the onset of depigmentation are unpredictable.
Currently, there is no cure for vitiligo. Patients with vitiligo can lose pigment on any part of the body, hair, and
inside of the mouth. Vitiligo can affect patients of all skin types, but it is more noticeable on darker skin.
What Causes Vitiligo?
Vitiligo begins once melanocytes, the skin-pigment-producing cells, die and stop creating melanin. The cause of this
chronic skin condition remains mostly unknown, but many believe it's an immune system disorder that attacks
melanocytes in the skin. Others think vitiligo is hereditary and responsive to trigger events, such as stress,
severe sunburn, or skin trauma. Patients with vitiligo might be at an increased risk of social or psychological
stress, sunburn, eye problems, and hearing loss.
The main symptom of vitiligo is light-colored or white patches on any area of the body, including
the skin, hair, eyes, the inside of the mouth, and genitals. Other vitiligo symptoms include the following.
- Patchy loss of skin color
- Change or loss of color in the retina
- Premature whitening or graying of the hair
- Color loss in mucous membranes
Types Of Vitiligo
Vitiligo is separated into two types (segmental and nonsegmental vitiligo), and multiple subtypes (localized,
generalized, and universal). Though it can be challenging to map the progression of vitiligo, our dermatology associates can help determine which type you have
and create a treatment plan best suited to your case. Contact us to schedule an appointment to learn more.
- Segmental vitiligo. Segmental vitiligo, or unilateral vitiligo, usually occurs
during childhood or adolescence and generally progresses for a couple of years before it stops. This type of
vitiligo appears in one area or segment of the body, such as one leg or one arm and is much less common than
- Nonsegmental vitiligo. Nonsegmental vitiligo, or as bilateral vitiligo,
generalized vitiligo, and vitiligo vulgaris, is the most common type of vitiligo. It results in white patches
that appear on both sides of a patient's body. Spots usually start near the hands, around the eyes or mouth, on
the feet, or other areas of the body that frequently rub together. Color loss begins in spurts but becomes more
pronounced as time progresses.
- Vitiligo subtypes. Dermatologists use subtypes to determine the degree and
severity of pigment loss on a patient's body. Localized vitiligo occurs when one or two patches appear on
limited areas of the body. Generalized vitiligo is the typical subtype where patients have scattered patches on
their bodies. The rarest type is universal - this means that most skin pigment is gone.
Though there is no surefire cure, there are multiple treatments for vitiligo available that can help
reduce its appearance and restore your skin tone. Successful treatment plans can be a single treatment or multiple
treatments. It may require adjustment over time, depending on the type and severity of the skin condition.
Medications, such as creams that control inflammation and medicines that affect the immune system, might be
prescribed. Also, therapies, including a combination of psoralen, light therapy, and depigmentation, are available.
If therapy is not as effective, surgical options, such as skin grafting, blister grafting, and micro-pigmentation,
might be used alongside therapy to achieve the desired results. Contact Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center
to discuss the right treatment for you.