Vitiligo is condition in which light-colored patches appear on the skin. Learn about vitiligo and how to treat it.

What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a condition in which light-colored patches appear on the skin. These patches start to show when the cells that make color in your skin disappear.

Vitiligo does not hurt. It cannot be spread to other people. It is not life-threatening or dangerous.

What Causes Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is caused by your immune system (the system that fights germs and illnesses) damaging skin cells by accident.

What Parts of the Body Can Be Affected by Vitiligo?

Vitiligo can appear in only one area of your body or in multiple areas of your body. Commonly, the light-colored patches can appear on the hands, elbows and knees. The patches can also appear around the mouth and eyes.

How Common is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is very common. It affects 2 out of every 100 people.

How Do People Get Vitiligo?

Doctors are not sure how people get vitiligo. But doctors do know that sometimes, vitiligo is passed down in families. Vitiligo is not anyone’s fault.

Does Vitiligo Go Away?

No. Most people have vitiligo for their whole lives.

How Do Doctors Treat Vitiligo?

The goal of treatment is to bring the color back to the light-colored patches. Treatment will not prevent new patches from forming. Your child’s dermatologist (skin doctor) will talk with you about the best treatment.

Some common treatments include:

  • Creams or lotions with medicine. The creams or lotions help new color to appear in the light-colored patches. You can get a cream or lotion from your dermatologist.
  • Light therapy. A special lamp helps bring color back to the skin. Light therapy is done at your dermatologist’s office.

What Can I Do to Help My Child at Home?

  • Protect your child’s skin from the sun. Have your child use sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher.
  • Wear clothes that covers as much skin as possible. Wear a wide-brimmed hat outside.
  • If it makes your child more comfortable, have him/her wear waterproof makeup or self-tanning lotion to fill in the patches.
Rev. 7/2017. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.