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A chronic skin condition resulting in a loss of pigment and causing the skin to appear white abnormal patches.

Vitiligo (白蝕) is a chronic skin condition caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the pigment cells (melanocytes) in the skin, resulting in a loss of pigment in the affected area causing the skin to appear whiter.. It can affect people of all ages. Vitiligo mostly appears on the face, neck, back of hands, etc. Vitiligo is not a contagious condition.  

Vitiligo causes 

There is no certain cause for vitiligo, but medical community believes that it may be related to the following factors: 

  • Immune system disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys pigment cells 
  • Genetics and family history 
  • Stress  
  • It can also potentially be triggered by trauma to the skin such as injury, severe burns or chemical injury.  

Vitiligo types

  • Segmental 
    The affected area only appears in one area, and the risk of the affected area expanding is low. It may be related to neurochemicals such as skin injury, pressure, etc. Because the affected area lacks melanin protection, the skin is more susceptible to sunburn.  

  • Non-segmental 
    The affected areas of vitiligo appear on the left and right sides of the body, and there is a greater risk of the affected area expanding. It is estimated to be related to an abnormality of the autoimmune system. 

Vitiligo symptoms  

  • Paler patches on the skin which will be more noticable in darker skin tones.  
  • Vitiligo usually first appear on the hands, face, and areas around the genitals 
  • White or grey hair on the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or beard 
  • Loss of colour in the mucous membranes inside the mouth and nose 


Diagnose vitiligo 

Your doctor will generally take a medical history and examine the skin with a special light to see if the part of skin is vitiligo. Skin biopsies and blood tests may also be performed. 

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  1. NIH. Vitiligo. 16 Oct 2023 Retrieved from  
  2. Mayo Clinic. Vitiligo. 16 Oct 2023 Retrieved from  
  3. NHS. Vitiligo. 16 Oct 2023 Retrieved from  
  4. Medical News Today. Understanding the symptoms of vitiligo. 16 Oct 2023 Retrieved from  

Information provided by:

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Dr Emma Warner

OT&P Healthcare

Please note that all medical articles featured on our website have been reviewed by qualified healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for a personal consultation with a qualified medical professional on the reader's medical condition.