This non-contagious skin condition affects more than 70 million sufferers worldwide, and more often younger patients under the age of 30. Vitiligo causes white, flat, non-scaly patches to develop on the skin, usually on the face, hands and body – though it can even affect the lips and hair. Vitiligo does not cause itching, or any other symptoms, in the involved areas of skin.
This condition is limited to the skin only, and does not represent poor internal health. The trigger, or specific cause, of vitiligo is not understood. It is clear, however, that this is an autoimmune disease, in which patients’ own immune systems cause their pigment cells to stop producing colour in the skin. Patients with one autoimmune disease may also have other autoimmune diseases, and your dermatologist will discuss with you whether testing for these is required.
Your dermatologist will consider and exclude other causes of skin lightening or whitening before making a diagnosis and instituting appropriate treatment. Treatment may involve creams and/or phototherapy, as well as certain oral medications.