Vitiligo - Depigmented White Patches on Skin
What is vitiligo? How does it start?
Vitiligo is a skin disease that causes the depigmentation of the skin. It manifests as light white patches on the skin or discolored skin patches known as macules. Macules typically start from small white spots on the skin which can grow to larger white patches as the condition worsens.
While one of the characteristics of vitiligo is white patches on the skin, white patches do not mean that someone has vitiligo. Other causes of white patches can include pityriasis alba, tinea versicolor, and idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis. One way to determine is by using Wood’s lamp which will cause depigmented skin to glow under UV light.
The location and size of white patches can be unpredictable in its developmental phase. Some patients first discovered their vitiligo on the body, while others can have initial vitiligo developing on limbs or even their face.
The degree of pigment loss can vary across patients. It can involve a slight lightening of skin color to skin turning totally white. In some cases, the hair on affected skin can turn white and even the insides of mouth can experience discoloration.
Vitiligo is not a rare condition
It impacts about 1-2% of the population worldwide and does not discriminate by geography, age or gender. However, public awareness about this skin condition is inadequate and filled with misconceptions.
Truth – vitiligo is not contagious
Many may mistake vitiligo for contagious disease and shun vitiligo patients. Aside from visual differences in the form of white patches on the skin, it has the same skin texture and thickness as normal skin. This allows patients afflicted by vitiligo to maintain a similar lifestyle as anyone else.
On top of the physical impact felt by vitiligo patients, sometimes the mental impact caused by society’s misconception can cause significant distress to them. There are a few famous personalities affected by vitiligo. Examples include Winnie Harlow and Michael Jackson.
Although vitiligo is a skin disorder on its own, the medical industry has classified them into various subtypes based on symptoms so as to facilitate in-depth studies and more targeted treatment.
Types of vitiligo
Segmental vitiligo usually manifests as one or more white skin patches that are on one side and do not cross the midline. It has an early onset and rapidly spreads in the affected area. The development of segmental vitiligo can arrest and depigment skin patches can remain unchanged for the life of the patient. It is not linked with thyroid or other autoimmune disorders
Non-segmental vitiligo is more strongly linked to markers of autoimmunity or inflammation such as halo nevi and thyroid antibodies (symmetrically) than segmental vitiligo. Examples of non-segmental vitiligo include:
Focal Vitiligo (Localized Vitiligo)
Characterized by one or more white skin patches in a limited area that does not follow a segmental distribution.
Of a non-segmental distribution but more extensive than localized or focal vitiligo. The most common type of vitiligo with discoloured skin patches often progressing at similar rates on corresponding body parts.
To learn more about vitiligo, do check out the pages on the symptoms, causes and FAQs of vitiligo. Do check out our available vitiligo treatment options. If you have any other questions, feel free to drop us an enquiry and we will get back to you as soon as possible.