Vitiligo

Definition of Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a skin condition in which there is a loss of brown color (pigment) from areas of skin, resulting in irregular white patches that feel like normal skin.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Vitiligo appears to occur when immune cells destroy the cells that produce brown pigment (melanocytes). This destruction is thought to be due to an autoimmune problem, but the cause is unknown.

Symptoms

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.

Signs and tests

Your health care provider can usually examine your skin to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

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

Expectations (prognosis)

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.

Review

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Roy Colven, MD, Dermatologist, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 9/11/2010

Vitiligo
Vitiligo, drug induced
Vitiligo on the face
Vitiligo on the back and arm

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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