Vitiligo is a condition in which areas of the skin lose their pigment or colour and turn white. The condition can occur at any age. However 50% of cases develop before the age of 20. In a third of cases, vitiligo may run in families (inherited). Although the condition affects people from all different racial backgrounds, it is more obvious among darker skinned people. It often affects visible areas of the skin, such as the face and hands, which can be a source of embarrassment to those affected.

The affected skin shows an absence of pigment cells that make up the skin colour. What triggers the disappearance of these pigment cells is not known. Some suggest that the body’s immune system is misfiring, which causes the destruction of the skin pigment cells. Eye changes may also accompany vitiligo.

It is unusual for vitiligo to affect the entire body. However the affected skin does not commonly revert back to its normal colour naturally.

Treatment for vitiligo may not be required in very mild and subtle cases. Prescription creams such as steroid creams may help to turn off the immune attack on the pigment cells. The use of Phototherapy (medical ultraviolet light) can also help to restore pigment cells in vitiligo affected skin. A dermatologist may also prescribe a cream or tablet to enhance the effects of phototherapy. In extensive cases of vitiligo, especially in dark skinned people, total body bleaching with a medicated cream may help to even out the blotchy skin appearance.

People with vitiligo should stay out of the sun and utilize maximum sun protection measures, as sun exposure may both worsen the vitiligo and increase the contrast between normal skin and white vitiligo skin that does not tan.

Because there are many conditions that look similar to vitiligo, resulting in white patches of skin, it is important to see your dermatologist for correct diagnosis and treatment.


To make an appointment or for more information call 02 9389 7333 or email
Office hours: Mon to Fri 8am - 5pm | Level 6, 3 Waverley Street (cnr Hollywood Ave), Bondi Junction. Click here for directions and map