Pronounced: vit-ill-EYE-goEn Español (Spanish Version)
Vitiligo is a disorder in which white patches develop on the skin. The patches may also appear in the hair, eyes, and mouth. They may appear on any part of the body.
The white patches are due to the destruction of melanocytes cells. These cells in the skin make pigment. Loss of pigment causes the skin to become lighter. It looks especially lighter compared to normal skin nearby. This is why vitiligo is more visible in darker-skinned people.
The exact cause of the pigment loss is not known. Possible causes include:
- The body’s immune system may destroy the melanocytes
- Melanocytes may destroy themselves
- Defective nerve cells may make toxic substances that harm the melanocytes
It is likely that a genetic defect makes the cells more vulnerable to damage.
Last reviewedJune 2013by Purvee S. Shah, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.