Understanding and Treating Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a common, chronic (long-term) skin condition that causes a loss of pigmentation in patches of the skin. People with this condition will develop pale areas that fade into white patches caused by a reduction in the amount of melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its colour. Vitiligo is a non-catching skin condition that can affect any area of skin, but most commonly occurs on the face, neck and hands, and in skin creases.

Prevalence and Impact

It affects around 1% of the population and can develop at any age, often causing distress to sufferers because of its unusual appearance. Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. The extent and rate of color loss are unpredictable, and it can occur on any part of the body. Sometimes it also affects the eyes, ears, hair, and the inside of the mouth. Vitiligo can sometimes cause other problems too. The pale areas of skin are more vulnerable to sunburn, so it’s important to take extra care when in the sun and to use a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF). Vitiligo treatment can be sought to manage the condition, and it can affect a person’s self-esteem, especially if it involves areas of skin that are exposed.


The Science Behind Vitiligo

Vitiligo is caused by the lack of a pigment called melanin in the skin. Special skill cells called melanocytes produce melanin. In vitiligo these cells stop working properly and so not enough melanin gets produced to maintain the normal colour of your skin and hair. It is not known exactly why these melanocyte cells disappear but there are associated conditions and risk factors for developing vitiligo.

Modern Treatment Options

Until recently, vitiligo patients had limited effective treatment options, with cosmetic camouflage being the most successful. Now, however, our London dermatologists at The London Dermatology Clinic take pride in offering medically-proven treatments that provide the skin with the best chance of repigmentation. While no drug can halt the process of vitiligo, certain medications, whether used alone or combined with light therapy, can help improve the skin’s appearance.

Prior to seeking any help for vitiligo, be sure to visit a registered skin doctor that specializes in this condition to avoid possible side effects from treatment, which include blistering, itching, over-darkening of the skin, sunburn as well as an increased risk of cataracts and skin cancer.



Is vitiligo hereditary?

While there may be a genetic component, it doesn’t guarantee inheritance. Consult a genetic counselor for personalized information.

Can stress worsen vitiligo?

Stress may exacerbate symptoms in some cases, but it’s not a direct cause. Stress management can be beneficial.

Are there dietary restrictions for vitiligo?

No specific diet is proven to treat vitiligo, but a balanced, nutritious diet can support overall skin health.

Is vitiligo contagious?

No, vitiligo is not contagious; it doesn’t spread through contact with affected individuals.

Can tattoos or permanent makeup cover vitiligo patches?

It’s possible, but consult a skilled tattoo artist experienced in vitiligo camouflage for best results.

Does vitiligo treatment have any age restrictions?

Treatment options are available for individuals of all ages; consult a dermatologist to determine the most suitable approach based on your specific circumstances.