What is vitiligo?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Vitiligo is a skin pigmentation-destroying autoimmune condition affecting more than 2 million Americans. As the immune system mistakenly attacks and kills off melanocytes (the cells where skin color is produced), it leaves white spots on skin that can be quite disfiguring. Sometimes white patches even appear inside the mouth or nose, around the genitals and rectum, in the eyes or on hair. If you meet someone with vitiligo, remember, it's not contagious.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Vitiligo is a skin pigment disorder that causes white patches or spots (leucoderma) on different parts of the skin (hands, feet, arms, face, lips, armpits, navel, groin, genitals, and rectum) and mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and eyes. Sometimes the hair in these areas also turns white. It happens when the skin's pigment-producing cells called melanocytes die. White patches can appear anywhere on the body (generalized vitiligo) or just in one area (focal vitiligo). Researchers suspect that vitiligo is one of many autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disease happen when the immune system mistakes the body's own tissue as something foreign and mounts an attack. In the case of vitiligo, the target is the melanocytes. Vitiligo is not contagious.

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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.