How do I know if white patches on my hands are caused by vitiligo?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
White patches on your hands could be caused by vitiligo. Vitiligo is a skin disorder that causes pigment-producing cells to die, and the tops and undersides of both hands are a common location for white patches or spots. But not all white skin patches are caused by vitiligo. Your doctor will want to rule out other conditions that whiten skin such as pityriasis alba, tinea versicolor, eczema, and psoriasis. Your doctor will also ask questions about how the patches may have come about, such as if you had a triggering event like a sunburn or any physical trauma. Your personal and family medical history, particularly regarding autoimmune diseases, will be important to know.

If vitiligo is suspected, your doctor may shine a special light called a Wood's lamp on your skin to see if the patches have little or no pigment. People with vitiligo have no pigment, so patches appear yellow-green or blue under the light. Since vitiligo is thought to be an autoimmune disease, a blood test might also be performed to measure immune-system chemicals that typically increase with autoimmune diseases. A sample of skin (biopsy) may be sent to a lab to measure melanocytes (pigment-producing cells).

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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.