Vitiligo is a skin condition that causes loss of skin color in patches. It’s not dangerous or contagious, but it can be psychologically devastating. There is no cure yet, but there are ways to treat it. Unfortunately, treatments for vitiligo don’t always work, and even when they do, vitiligo can come back. Some body areas are very difficult to treat. The good news is there are now promising therapies on the horizon.
Who gets vitiligo?
Millions of people worldwide have vitiligo (pronounced “vi-tuh-lie-go”). It can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or race. Vitiligo can have a significant impact on a person’s self-image and quality of life, especially in people with dark skin where the contrast is more noticeable.
What causes vitiligo?
We don’t know exactly why it happens, but the cause of vitiligo is a loss of the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in the skin. The most likely theory is that it’s an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system cells attack its own melanocytes. Genetics also play a role. Up to 20% of people with vitiligo have an affected relative.
Certain triggers can set off or flare vitiligo. These include: