Vitiligo is a condition that causes the skin to lose its color in patches, which often enlarge over time. This disorder can impact any area of the body, including the hair and the inside of the mouth.

Melanin typically determines the color of hair and skin. Vitiligo occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin. This condition affects individuals of all skin tones but is more noticeable in those with brown or Black skin. While vitiligo is neither life-threatening nor contagious, it can be a source of stress and affect self-esteem.

It is categorized in several types:

  • Universal: More than 80% or almost all of the skin will be pigment-free.
  • Generalized: The discolored patches frequently spread symmetrically over related body parts. This is the most prevalent kind of vitiligo.
  • Segmental: This affects only one side or portion of the body, such as the hands or face. This usually appears earlier in life, advances for a year or two, and then stops.
  • Focal: Within a year to two, the macules develop in a small or a few areas and do not spread in a specific pattern.
  • Acrofacial: Skin on body openings like ears, nose, and eyes, as well as hands and face are targeted by this type of vitiligo.

Treatment options can help restore color to the affected skin areas, but they do not stop the ongoing loss of skin color or prevent the condition from recurring.


Symptoms can vary from mild, affecting a small area, to severe, covering a large part of the skin. The progression of vitiligo can also be unpredictable. Sometimes, the patches stop forming on their own, but in most cases, the loss of pigment spreads to large part of the skin.

Signs and symptoms of vitiligo may include:

  • Diminished color in the tissues lining the inside of the mouth and nose.
  • Irregular fading of skin color, typically starting on the hands, face, around body openings, and genital area.
  • Early turning white or gray of hair on the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or beard.

If any of the signs of vitiligo occur, consult a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis, especially if the color loss spreads to a large area, or if these changes affect mental health. Treatments can sometimes slow down or stop the loss of color and even bring back some color to the skin. However, there is no definite cure for this condition.


Vitiligo is characterized by the loss of skin pigmentation due to a deficiency in melanin, yet its precise cause remains elusive. Various studies propose several potential factors contributing to vitiligo:

  • Autoimmune condition: The immune system attacks healthy pigment-producing cells (melanocytes).
  • Genetic mutation: Studies show that around 30% of vitiligo cases are linked to genetics, meaning the condition can be inherited. This suggests that if someone in the family has vitiligo, there is a chance one might inherit it too.
  • Environmental triggers: The melanocyte cells’ ability to operate can be impacted by things like severe sunburn and exposure to harmful chemicals.
  • Stress: Regular mental or physical stress, particularly following an accident, can alter the amount of pigment the melanocyte cells generate.

Risk factors

Vitiligo affects people of all races and genders equally, but it is more noticeable on darker skin tones. It can start at any age, but most often appears before age 30. Other risk factors include:

  • Has an autoimmune disease, such as Addison’s disease, anemia, type 1 diabetes, lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disease
  • Have a medical family history of the illness
  • Frequently come into direct touch with substances that contain phenol, such as those included in certain detergents