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Vitiligo

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Last updated December 5, 2021

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What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is when white patches develop on the skin because of a loss of color (pigment) in these areas.

It’s caused by a problem with the pigment-producing cells, called melanocytes. The body’s immune system attacks them. About 20–30% of people who get it have a close relative who has it. It is considered an autoimmune response and tends to occur in people with other autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s.

Vitiligo can also be caused by skin trauma, such as a severe sunburn.

Symptoms

Vitiligo usually appears on the hands and face first and may spread over time. Pale patches of skin may be the only symptom.

Treatment

Sometimes, it goes away on its own. If it doesn’t, see your doctor. Depending on how much of your body is affected, your doctor may write a prescription for a steroid cream that could be used to prevent patches from getting bigger. Other prescription creams and even UV light therapy can be prescribed to treat vitiligo.

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