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How is vitiligo diagnosed?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
To diagnose vitiligo, your doctor will learn more about your personal and family medical history, perform a physical examination, and use specific medical tests. While much is unknown about vitiligo, this skin condition is thought to have a genetic component. This means it can run in families. Your doctor will ask if your parents, grandparents, or siblings have vitiligo. Also, the doctor may ask if autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, or inflammatory arthritis run in your family. The doctor will need to know what may have triggered the vitiligo such as sunburn, rash, illness, or emotional stress.

Blood may be drawn for a lab test. A skin sample or biopsy of the depigmented (white) skin patches is important as well as an eye examination. Your doctor may use a special light called a Wood's lamp to shine on the depigmented skin to determine if the white patches are vitiligo or another skin condition.
A skin exam and taking a medical history are usually enough for your doctor to diagnose you with vitiligo, although the doctor will also check to be sure that you don't have a different skin problem like dermatitis. Your doctor will likely ask you, depending on your current age, whether your hair turned gray before you turned 35. Other questions may focus on sun sensitivity. Your doctor may also want to know whether your family history includes any autoimmune disorders or vitiligo.

While this isn't always needed, your doctor may conduct a skin biopsy and take a blood sample to check for signs of autoimmune or thyroid problems

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.