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

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
White patches on your arm could be caused by vitiligo, particularly if the skin patches are symmetrical on both sides of your body or over the bony parts of your elbows. But not all white skin patches are caused by vitiligo. Other conditions your doctor might consider include pityriasis alba, tinea versicolor, eczema, psoriasis, or a fungal infection. If the patch doesn't itch, that rules out a lot of skin conditions. To be sure, your doctor will examine the characteristics, location, and pattern of the patches. 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.