Vitiligo is a skin disorder in which white patches develop on the skin.  Patients develop slowly enlarging white spots on the skin on various locations on the body.  The areas appear when the melanocytes, or the cells that produce pigment, are destroyed.  Because they are destroyed, melanin can no longer be produced resulting in depigmented patches.  Melanocytes are normally found all throughout the body, including the hair, the skin, the mouth, and the eyes, and in vitiligo, pigment can be lost in any of these areas.

Some of the possible areas for involvement of vitiligo include:
  • Exposed areas of skin such as the face, eyelids, hands, and upper chest.
  • Body folds such as the armpits, beneath breasts, and groin area.
  • Areas around body openings such as the eyes, nostrils, mouth, areola, belly button, genital region.
  • The back of the eye.
  • The hair, seen as early graying.
  • Areas immediately surrounding the pigment seen in moles (also known as “halo nevi”).
  • Areas of trauma such as cuts, scrapes, and burns.

What is the cause of vitiligo?

The exact cause of vitiligo is not known.  There are several factors that are felt to play a role, including the immune system, genetics, and physical and emotional stress.

Immune system: