Vitiligo (vit-ih-LIE-go) is a disease that causes the loss of skin colour in blotches. The extent and rate of colour loss from vitiligo are unpredictable. It can affect the skin on any part of your body. It may also affect the hair and the inside of the mouth. Normally, the colour of hair and skin is determined by melanin. Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious. It can be stressful or make you feel bad about yourself. Treatment for vitiligo may restore colour to the affected skin. But it does not prevent continued loss of skin colour or a recurrence.
The main sign of vitiligo is patchy loss of skin colour. Usually, the discolouration first shows on sun-exposed areas, such as the hands, feet, arms, face and lips. Vitiligo signs include:
Vitiligo can start at any age but often appears before age 20. Depending on the type of vitiligo you have, the discoloured patches may cover:
It's difficult to predict how your disease will progress. Sometimes the patches stop forming without treatment. In most cases, pigment loss spreads and eventually involves most of your skin. Rarely, the skin gets its color back.
Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) die or stop producing melanin — the pigment that gives your skin, hair and eyes colour. The involved patches of skin become lighter or white. Doctors don't know why the cells fail or die. It may be related to:
People with vitiligo may be at increased risk of: