Vitiligo is a long-term problem in which growing patches of skin lose their color. It can affect people of any age, gender, or ethnic group.
The patches appear when melanocytes within the skin die off. Melanocytes are the cells responsible for producing the skin pigment, melanin, which gives skin its color and protects it from the sun’s UV rays.
Globally, it appears to affect between 0.5 and 2 percent of people.
Fast facts on vitiligo
Here are some key points about vitiligo. More detail is in the main article.
- Vitiligo can affect people of any age, gender, or ethnicity.
- There is no cure, and it is usually a lifelong condition.
- The exact cause is unknown, but it may be due to an autoimmune disorder or a virus.
- Vitiligo is not contagious.
- Treatment options may include exposure to UVA or UVB light and depigmentation of the skin in severe cases.
What is vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a skin condition in which patches of skin loses their color.
The total area of skin that can be affected by vitiligo varies between individuals. It can also affect the eyes, the inside of mouth, and the hair. In most cases, the affected areas remain discolored for the rest of the person’s life.
The condition is photosensitive. This means that the areas that are affected will be more sensitive to sunlight than those that are not.
It is hard to predict whether the patches will spread, and by how much. The spread might take weeks, or the patches might remain stable for months or years.
The lighter patches tend to be more visible in people with dark or tanned skin.