Vitiligo

Vitiligo

What is Vitiligo?

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.

What are the signs and 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).

How is Vitiligo diagnosed?

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.

What are the causes of Vitiligo?

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).

How is Vitiligo treated?

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.

What are the side effects of vitiligo treatment?

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

Vitiligo Doctors and Providers

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is vitiligo contagious?

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

  • 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.