Vitiligo is a rare condition where the skin loses melanin, the pigment that determines skin, hair and eye color. Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or no longer form melanin, causing slowly enlarging white patches to appear on the skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious, but it can be stressful.
It’s unclear exactly what causes vitiligo. It may be an autoimmune disorder, where a person’s immune system attacks and destroys the pigment cells. Heredity also may play a role because vitiligo sometimes runs in families. In addition, some people have reported that a single event, such as a sunburn or emotional distress, seems to have triggered vitiligo.
The choice of treatment depends on your age, how much skin is involved and where, how quickly the disease is progressing, and how it's affecting your life. Effectively treating vitiligo can be a challenge, but therapies are available that may restore some skin tone. Learn more about treatment options for vitiligo.