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Explaining Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a chronic disorder that causes areas of the skin to lose color, turning it a milky-white color. When a person has vitiligo, the cells that are responsible for their skin color, called melanocytes, are destroyed and cease to produce skin pigment. The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown. Many researchers believe that it is an autoimmune disorder due to the fact that the body is attacking its own cells. 

Symptoms of Vitiligo

The most common symptom of vitiligo is white patches on the skin that can appear as one of the following patterns:

  • Segmental/focal – The white patches are smaller and appear in one or a few areas. They tend to appear on one side of the body in one area. It may continue for about a year, then stop. It progresses slower than generalized vitiligo.
  • Non-segmental/generalized – The white patches are widespread symmetrically on both sides of the body. It can affect pigment cells anywhere on the body, starting and stopping many times over the course of a lifetime. 

A person with vitiligo may also experience loss of color inside their mouth or nose as well as their hair, which can turn white on the scalp, eyebrow, eyelash, and beard.

Risk Factors

The condition does not appear to be inherited, but family history of vitiligo or other autoimmune conditions may increase the risk, although it does not cause vitiligo. Another risk factor may be having genes associated with vitiligo, NLRP1 and PTPN22. About 20% of people with vitiligo also have another autoimmune disorder, which may include scleroderma, lupus, thyroiditis, and psoriasis. 


The goal of treatment is, in most cases, to help skin cells that make color to grow again. Treatments can include the use of light therapy to help return color to the skin, medicines or medicated skin creams, or types of surgery if other treatments do not work.

Premier Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery

For the past three decades, Premier Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery has been Delaware’s practice of choice in skin and aesthetic services. Our goal is to address all of your skincare needs under one roof by integrating medical, cosmetic, surgical and aesthetic expertise with the highest standards of care and compassion. We are able to provide a comprehensive approach utilizing our different but complementary training backgrounds, philosophies, and techniques, to achieve premier results. Our dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and aestheticians work collaboratively to integrate treatment plans that help you look and feel your best. Contact us today!


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