Vitiligo is a disease in which the pigment cells of the skin, melanocytes, are destroyed in certain areas.
Vitiligo results in depigmented, or white, patches of skin in any location on the body.
Vitiligo can be focal and localized to one area, or it may affect several different areas on the body.
The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown, although most experts believe that it is an autoimmune condition in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys certain cells within the body.
Most people who have vitiligo will develop the condition prior to age 40; about half develop it before age 20.
Vitiligo tends to run in families.
Vitiligo also tends to occur more often with certain other autoimmune diseases, such as hyper- or hypo-thyroidism (an over- or under-active thyroid gland), adrenocortical insufficiency (underproduction of corticosteroid hormone by the adrenal gland), rheumatoid arthritis, adult-onset type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and pernicious anemia (subnormal red blood cell level caused by inability to absorb vitamin B12). This suggests that these different autoimmune diseases probably share at least some predisposing genetic or environmental causal factors, although these mostly remain unknown.
Vitiligo (pronounced vit-ill-EYE-go) is a pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) in the skin are destroyed. As a result, white patches appear on the skin in different parts of the body.
White patches on the skin are the main sign of vitiligo. These patches are more common in areas where the skin is exposed to the sun. The patches may be on the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. Other common areas for white patches are:
The armpits and groin (where the leg meets the body)
Around the mouth
People with vitiligo often have hair that turns gray early. Those with dark skin may notice a loss of color inside their mouths.
Focal: This type is characterized by one or more areas of pigment loss in a confined area.
Segmental: This type manifests as one or more areas of pigment loss on only one side of the body. It occurs most commonly in children.This type of vitiligo is not associated with thyroid or other autoimmune disorders.
Mucosal: Mucous membranes alone are affected.
Acrofacial: Depigmentation occurs on parts away from the center of the body such as face, head, hands and feet.
Vulgaris: This is characterized by scattered patches that are widely distributed.
Mixed: Acrofacial and vulgaris vitiligo occur in combination, or segmental and acrofacial vitiligo and/or vulgaris involvement are noted in combination.
Universal: This is complete or nearly complete depigmentation.