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Get to know vitiligo

Facts and important
about this complex condition

Understanding vitiligo

When you or a loved one are living with vitiligo, it's important to start with some key facts.

There are many misconceptions about vitiligo. Learning about it and confronting those common myths can help you feel more confident in your knowledge about the condition.

First things first—vitiligo is not just a cosmetic condition. It's actually an autoimmune condition and it can affect people both physically and mentally. No matter what your vitiligo journey has looked like, knowing key facts may help you and your healthcare provider manage the condition.

What causes vitiligo?

Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition, meaning a person's own immune system is attacking their body.

With vitiligo, it's believed that the person's own immune system attacks their body's melanocytes (the cells responsible for our skin and hair color). When the melanocytes are destroyed, the pigment in certain areas of the skin begins to disappear. Other potential factors might include having other autoimmune conditions or a family history of vitiligo. Sometimes, vitiligo may also be triggered by external events like physical or emotional stress.

It is a common misconception that sunburn is a root cause of vitiligo. Sunburn (and other factors like stress) can be a vitiligo trigger, but it's not a root cause.

The impact of vitiligo

Vitiligo affects a wide range of people, including people of any age, gender, ethnicity, and skin tone. Let's dive a little deeper on who is affected by vitiligo.

Vitiligo affects 2-3 million people in the United States alone.

Vitiligo can occur at any age, but initial symptoms usually appear before age 30.

About 25-50% of people with vitiligo have a relative who is also affected.

Some people with vitiligo may have other autoimmune conditions such as thyroid disease, lupus, or psoriasis.

Did you know?

It's commonly believed that vitiligo only affects darker skin tones,
but this is actually a myth! Vitiligo can impact people of all different skin tones.

What are the symptoms of vitiligo?

While vitiligo affects each person differently, the primary symptoms are white patches that appear on the skin. This is called depigmentation. When you have vitiligo, melanocytes (the cells that produce pigment that give your skin its color) are destroyed. This results in a loss of pigment (color) on your skin.

Depigmentation can appear on any part of the body, including:

  • Skin: usually on the hands, feet, arms, torso, and face

  • Hair: scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and facial hair

  • Inside of the mouth or nose

If you're living with vitiligo, you know it's more than just the white patches on your skin. Vitiligo can affect many aspects of your life, like your mental health, self‑esteem, and even your identity. It's important to be honest about those emotions and open up about all the ways vitiligo makes you feel with the people in your support system, like friends, family, and your healthcare provider.

from the vitiligo community:

We need to help each other. If we don't help each other and get the information out there, it can affect us emotionally.”

- Judith,
living with vitiligo

Living with vitiligo

Vitiligo is a chronic autoimmune condition, meaning it is ongoing. And it's unpredictable—even if it hasn't spread in years, it can continue to progress over time. Things like skin trauma, severe sunburn, or stress may trigger new spots. That's why it's important to have a good understanding of the condition and a strong relationship with a healthcare provider.

Your healthcare providers can help answer questions about vitiligo and work with you on how to manage it. They can also help you build a plan to track your vitiligo over time. Remember, you can start and lead the conversation about your vitiligo at any time.

Life with vitiligo is a journey, but it's important to know you are not alone. A little support can go a long way—whether it's support from your loved ones or others in the vitiligo community.

from the vitiligo community:

Try to learn about vitiligo and don't be embarrassed by it.
Do what you can to educate yourself and others.”

- Person living with vitiligo

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