Vitiligo: Understanding Skin Depigmentation

Vitiligo is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterised by the loss of skin pigmentation. This condition leads to the development of white patches on the skin, hair, and mucous membranes. Although vitiligo is not life-threatening, it can significantly impact a person’s self-esteem and quality of life.


Vitiligo is not directly related to age, but its onset can occur at any stage of life, from childhood to old age. It often begins between the ages of 10 and 30, but cases have also been reported in infants and older adults.


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The primary symptom of vitiligo is the appearance of depigmented patches on the skin. These patches are usually well-defined and oval-shaped. Common areas affected include the hands, face, and genital regions. Additionally, premature greying or whitening of hair may occur in affected areas.

Types of Vitiligo
Types of Vitiligo
  1. Generalised Vitiligo: This type affects large areas of the body and is the most common form. Patches appear symmetrically on corresponding body parts.
  2. Segmental Vitiligo: Typically seen in younger individuals, segmental vitiligo affects only one side or part of the body. It tends to stabilise after initial progression.
  3. Localised (Focal) Vitiligo: In this type, specific areas of the body experience depigmentation.
  4. Acrofacial Vitiligo: Primarily affecting the face and hands, acrofacial vitiligo involves areas around the eyes, nose, and ears.
Causes and Risk Factors
Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of vitiligo remains unclear, but several factors contribute:

  • Autoimmune Mechanism: Vitiligo is considered an autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly attacks melanocytes (pigment-producing cells), leading to depigmentation.
  • Genetics: A family history of vitiligo increases the risk.
  • Environmental Triggers: Stress, sun exposure, and certain chemicals may trigger or exacerbate vitiligo.
Treatment Options
Treatment Options

While there is no cure, treatments aim to manage symptoms and improve appearance:

  1. Topical Medications:
    Corticosteroid creams: These promote repigmentation.
    Tacrolimus and pimecrolimus: Effective for small areas.

  2. Procedures:
    Blister grafting: Transplanting pigmented skin from one area to another.
    Tattooing: Implanting pigment into depigmented skin.
    Skin grafting: Transferring healthy skin to affected areas.

  3. Phototherapy:
    UVB phototherapy: Stimulates repigmentation.
    Psoralen with UV light (PUVA): Enhances melanocyte activity.
Melanomas Self-Check
Season of Skin Brightening

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