What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is an acquired chronic skin disorder where skin loses its normal pigmentation (due to destruction of melanocytes, the pigment producing cells of the skin) and appears lighter than the surrounding unaffected skin.  This results in sharply demarcated chalk white macules.  This disorder occurs in all races, but is more visibly noticeable in darker skinned individuals as the contrast is greater.  It occurs equally in both sexes and may occur at any age but is most often acquired between the ages of 10 and 30.  It is common worldwide, affecting up to 1% of the population.

What causes Vitiligo?

The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown.  There is a genetic component to the disorder as greater than 30% of individuals with vitiligo report vitiligo in a parent, sibling, or child.  Several theories exist regarding the mechanism of melanocytes destruction in vitiligo including autoimmune and neurogenic theories.  Patients often attribute the onset of their vitiligo to physical trauma, illness or emotional stress.  

What is the treatment for Vitiligo?

Currently, there is no treatment for vitiligo.  There are several things that can be done to help with the management of the disorder including:  sunscreen use, cosmetic cover-up, UV light therapy, skin grafting, and depigmentation of the unaffected skin in order to try and achieve one uniform skin color.