Symptoms and Signs of Vitiligo

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Vitiligo

Vitiligo is an autoimmune skin disease where there is a progressive destruction of the skin’s pigment producing cells (melanocytes), that results in areas of abnormally white skin. Signs and symptoms of vitiligo are white spots or irregular areas adjacent to normally pigmented skin. Often, if skin involves hair growth like on the face or arms, the development of gray or pigment-free hair results. Over time, these patches may gradually enlarge. In some patients, vitiligo extends down the entire length of a limb (termed segmental vitiligo). Patients with this disease can develop psychological factors and social problems – many people do not know that vitiligo is not a transmittable or an infectious disease.

Although vitiligo seems to be autoimmune disease, is not known what triggers the autoimmune system to destroy melanocytes. There are numerous theories; some suggest that environmental factors interact with genes to predispose a patient to this disease. Exposure to certain phenol – like chemicals in some individuals can produce a skin condition that is identical to vitiligo.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.