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VITILIGO

What is it?

Vitiligo (vit-ih-LIE-go) is a disease that causes loss of skin color in patches. The discolored areas usually get bigger with time. The condition can affect the skin on any part of the body. It can also affect hair and the inside of the mouth.

Normally, the color of hair and skin is determined by melanin. Vitiligo occurs when cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious. It can be stressful or make you feel bad about yourself.

Symptoms

Vitiligo signs include:

  • Patchy loss of skin color, which usually first appears on the hands, face, and areas around body openings and the genitals

  • Premature whitening or graying of the hair on your scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard

  • Loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of your mouth and nose (mucous membranes)

Complications

Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) die or stop producing melanin — the pigment that gives your skin, hair and eyes color. The involved patches of skin become lighter or white. It's unclear exactly what causes these pigment cells to fail or die. It may be related to:

  • A disorder of the immune system (autoimmune condition)

  • Family history (heredity)

  • A trigger event, such as stress, severe sunburn or skin trauma, such as contact with a chemical