Vitiligo – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Feb 02, 2014
Quick Bites

  • A loss of melanin causes irregular white patches in the skin.
  • Greying of the hair and change in colour of the retina are other symptoms.
  • Topical ointments can help repigment the depigmented area.
  • Treatments can only slow or stop the progression of skin depigmentation.

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease in which pigment production stops in certain areas of the skin. White patches or de-pigmentation also appear on the skin.


There are three different ways in which vitiligo appears. In the focal pattern, white patches are localised to only one or a few areas of the body. The skin condition sometimes appears in the segmental pattern, developing on one side of the body. The third pattern in which vitiligo appears is generalised i.e. the white patches appear on both sides of the body.



There is no one specific cause for vitiligo. it develops when melanocytes (skin cells) are either attacked or destroyed by the disease or self-destruction. It is more likely to appear in areas that are affected by minor injuries or sunburns.


Risk Factors

Autoimmune disease – You are at greater risk of vitiligo if you have any other autoimmune disease or have a family history of them. These diseases include hyperthyroidism, adrenocortical insufficiency, alopecia areata and pernicious anaemia.

Complexion – The autoimmune condition is more likely to affect people with dark complexion. However, anyone is vulnerable to vitiligo, irrespective of ethnicity or gender.

Family history – If somebody in among your blood relations has/had vitiligo, you are highly likely to develop it.



Vitiligo usually appears as white patches on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun (the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips; it is progressive and can spread throughout the body. Armpits, groin, the mouth, eyes, nostrils, navel, genital and rectal area are among other parts of the body that can be affected.

De-pigmentation – Owing to the loss of melanin, an individual develops white coloured patches on the skin. This de-pigmentation is more likely in areas around the neck, on the arms and legs.

Premature greying of the hair –A reason behind premature greying of hair is loss or inadequate production of melanin. Those affected by vitiligo often suffer from premature greying of hair.

Change in the colour of the sides of one’s mouth and retina – According to National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Disorders, there could be a loss of pigment from the inner membranes of the mouth in vitiligo patients. This can change the skin colours around the mouth, especially the sides.


Treatment options

As of now, there is no cure for vitiligo. There is no way you can halt the process. What you can do to treat vitiligo is remove the white spots by the following ways:

Topical ointments – The skin expert you visit for vitiligo may prescribe ointments that can repigment the depigmented area.

Makeup – One of the ways to deal with vitiligo is to camouflage makeup to even out skin tone. Makeup can make vitiligo less noticeable by covering up the prominent scars or other skin problems.

Phototherapy – this includes medical procedures in your doctor’s office for two-three times a week to help the skin return to its normal colour.




Read more articles on Vitiligo.



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