Vitiligo

Vitiligo

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Vitiligo is a condition in which white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body because the cells that make pigment in these patches (melanocytes) have been destroyed. Vitiligo can sometimes also affect the mucous membranes (such as the tissues inside the mouth, nose and eyes).

The cause of vitiligo in children is unknown, though it is known to be an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues. Vitiligo sometimes runs in families and sometimes occurs alongside other known autoimmune diseases like thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, and Addison’s disease (chronic adrenal gland insufficiency). White patches are the main vitiligo symptoms. Patches are commonly found on the hands, feet, arms, face and lips, and children with vitiligo may also notice white hair.

In some children, vitiligo patches don’t spread, and in others they do. It is not usually a life-threatening condition.

Tests & Diagnosis

Tests & Diagnosis

To diagnose vitiligo, your child’s doctor will conduct a physical exam and ask you questions about family history, other autoimmune diseases and recent illnesses your child has had.

Treatments

Treatments

If your child is diagnosed with vitiligo, your doctor may first recommend topical medications, most commonly corticosteroids or immune modulators. Light treatments (phototherapy) can also reduce the inflammation that causes vitiligo.

FAQs

FAQs

What causes vitiligo?

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease, a condition in which the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues, with multiple potential triggers.

What are the symptoms of vitiligo?

Vitiligo causes white patches of skin to appear on different parts of the body because the cells that make pigment in these patches (melanocytes) have been destroyed. Vitiligo can also affect the mucous membranes (such as the tissues inside the mouth, nose and eyes).

What kind of tests are there for vitiligo?

To diagnose vitiligo, your child’s doctor will conduct a physical exam and ask you questions about family history, other autoimmune diseases and recent illnesses your child has had.

Is vitiligo contagious?

Vitiligo is never contagious. It is thought to be a genetic disease, possibly triggered by environmental factors.

How is vitiligo treated?

If your child is diagnosed with vitiligo, your doctor will recommend appropriate treatment options based on your child’s presentation at evaluation.

What are the side effects of vitiligo treatment?

Topical medicines such as corticosteroids can make skin thin and fragile.

Is vitiligo common?

It is a relatively common disease – about 1% of the world’s population is affected.

How can I help my child cope with vitiligo?

Learn about this condition. Support your child and encourage him or her to participate in social activities. Teach your child (and your child’s friends) that it’s OK to be different. We can provide you with resources to help you and your child, and the Resources link on this webpage is also a good source for more information about vitiligo.

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