Vitiligo is a skin condition resulting from loss of pigment, which produces white patches. Any part of the body may be affected. Common areas of involvement are the face, lips, hands, arms, legs and genital areas. The exact cause of vitiligo is not known; however, there may be an inherited component.
Melanin, the pigment that determines color of skin, hair and eyes, is produced in cells called melanocytes. If these cells die or cannot form melanin, the skin becomes lighter or completely white.
Typical vitiligo shows areas of milky-white skin. However, the degree of pigment loss can vary within each vitiligo patch. There may be different shades of pigment in a patch, or a border of darker skin may circle in an area of light skin.
Sometimes the best treatment for vitiligo is no treatment at all. In fair-skinned individuals, avoiding tanning of normal skin can make areas of vitiligo almost unnoticeable. However, these areas are easily sunburned and people with Vitiligo have an increased risk to skin cancer.
Using sunscreen is a must for areas of skin not covered by clothing. Disguising vitiligo with makeup, self-tanning compounds or dyes is an easy way to make it less noticeable. If cover-ups are not satisfactory, your dermatologist may recommend treatment options. Treatment can be aimed at returning normal pigment (repigmentation) or destroying remaining pigment (depigmentation). None of the repigmentation methods are permanent cures.
Your dermatologist can best determine what course of treatment is best on a case-by-case basis.