Vitiligo (also known as leucoderma or leukoderma) is a condition in which irregular, pale or white patches form on the skin. The condition may also affect individuals' hair, eyes, and mucous membranes.
Skin develops color from a pigment called melanin. In vitiligo, melanocytes, or the cells that produce this pigment, are damaged, and skin loses its color in the areas where melanin production is dysfunctional.
The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown at this time; however, scientists have several different theories. One theory suggests that vitiligo is an autoimmune disease in which the body destroys melanocytes for no known reason. It is often tied to thyroid autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, primary myxedema, and Graves' disease. There may also be a genetic component, because some families have a higher prevalence of this disease. There are no known drug-induced causes of vitiligo.
Vitiligo affects approximately one out of every 100 hundred people of both sexes ad all ages and races in the United States. The onset of vitiligo is most common in individuals between 20 and 30 years old and is rare in individuals greater than 40 years of age. Approximately 30% of people diagnosed with vitiligo have a family history of the condition.
Approximately 30% of individuals with vitiligo will see repigmentation within the affected areas over time. The quality, speed, and extent of recoloration vary among these individuals. However, it is frequently considered inadequate, and treatment is still sought. Research appears to focus on determining the underlying causes of vitiligo and finding new therapies.

Related Terms

Hypopigmentation, leucoderma, leukoderma, patchy skin, pigmentation disorder, skin disease, skin disorder, skin graft, skin pigmentation disorder, vitiligo vulgaris.

types of the disease

Focal (or localized) vitiligo: Color loss occurs in only one or a few places on the body.
Generalized (or bilateral, nonsegmental) vitiligo: Color loss is extensive and present throughout the body. This subtype is most common and is also referred to as vitiligo vulgaris.
Segmental (or unilateral) vitiligo: Color loss occurs in one portion or hemisphere of the body.
Universal vitiligo: Color loss is present over at least 80% of the body's surface. This subtype is the rarest and does not affect 100% of the body, as does albinism.