Vitiligo (vit-uh-lie-go) causes the skin to lose color. Patches of lighter skin appear. Some people develop a few patches. Others lose much more skin color.
Vitiligo usually affects the skin, but it can develop anywhere we have pigment. Patches of hair can turn white. Some people lose color inside their mouths. Even an eye can lose some of its color.
People of all races and ethnicities get vitiligo.
Vitiligo is not contagious. It is not life-threatening. But, vitiligo can be life-altering. Some people develop low self-esteem, no longer want to hang out with friends or develop serious depression. Most people have vitiligo for life, so it’s important to develop coping strategies.
A coping strategy that helps many people is to learn about vitiligo. Another helpful strategy is to connect with others who have vitiligo.
How do dermatologists diagnose vitiligo?
If your dermatologist suspects that you have vitiligo, your dermatologist will:
- Review your medical history, and may ask specific questions such as whether anyone in your family has vitiligo.
- Perform a physical exam, looking carefully at the affected skin.
You also may need a blood test to check the health of your thyroid gland. People who have vitiligo often have an autoimmune thyroid disease. A blood test will tell whether your thyroid is healthy. If you have thyroid disease, treatment can successfully control it.
How do dermatologists treat vitiligo?
If you have vitiligo, you should discuss treatment options with your dermatologist. There are many treatment options. The goal of most treatments is to restore lost skin color.