Vitiligo is a chronic disorder that causes depigmentation in patches of skin. It occurs when the melanocytes, the cells responsible for skin pigmentation which are derived from the neural crest, die or are unable to function. The precise pathogenesis, or cause, of vitiligo is complex and not yet fully understood.
There is some evidence suggesting it is caused by a combination of autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors. It is also common in people with thyroid disorders. The population incidence worldwide is considered to be less than 1 percent. Non-segmental vitiligo has a greater prevalence than the disorder's other form(s).
Vitiligo causes white patches on your skin. It can also affect your eyes, mouth and nose. It occurs when the cells that give your skin its color are destroyed. No one knows what destroys them. It is more common in people with autoimmune diseases, and it might run in families. It usually starts before age 40.
The white patches are more common where your skin is exposed to the sun. In some cases, the patches spread. Vitiligo can cause your hair to gray early. If you have dark skin, you may lose color inside your mouth.
Using sunscreen will help protect your skin, and cosmetics can cover up the patches. Treatments for vitiligo include medicines, light therapy and surgery. Not every treatment is right for everyone. Many have side effects. Some take a long time.