Vitiligo: what it is, its triggers and how to treat it

Vitiligo: what it is, its triggers and how to treat it

Well circumscribed milky white spots with often irregular outlines may indicate the presence of vitiligo. Here are the causes and possible treatments of this skin pathology

Easily recognizable to the naked eye due to the characteristic presence of roundish white spots with irregular edges, vitiligo is one of the diseases that affects the skin. Worldwide, its incidence rate is approximately 3-4% and it can occur more frequently on some areas of the body including:

  • knees;
  • folds of the armpits and groin;
  • elbows;
  • around the mouth and eyes;
  • face.

Often the appearance of the spots is a consequence of traumas of a different nature such as psycho-affective ones, however even exposure to the sun can play a key role in revealing this pathology.

And it is precisely the presence of spots of varying size that makes vitiligo not only a disease, but also an aesthetic problem. To speak openly in recent years have also been several celebrities who have shown in public the signs of the disease with which they live every day. A different way therefore of dealing with the disease than in the past, since many of these stars have made it their strong point.

On the other hand, it is a disease for which to date there are no specific drugs (even if there are interesting innovations being tested) and the treatments cannot always give the desired results.

To better understand the causes, symptoms and possible treatments of vitiligo, we asked for the consultation of Dr. Andrea Paro Vidolin, Surgeon, Specialist in Dermatology and Venereology.


  • What's this
  • Causes
  • Symptoms
  • Treatments
  • Treatments of the future

What's this

«Vitiligo is a skin disease that can affect both men and women. It can appear at any age, but in 50% of cases it can occur between 10 and 30 years. It is a disease that can remain silent for years and then develop abruptly. Two forms of vitiligo can be distinguished, the generalized and the localized, which are diagnosed based on parameters such as the extent of the lesions and the mode of distribution. The generalized form is the most frequent and affects multiple skin areas symmetrically and bilaterally. Otherwise, localized vitiligo affects only one area of ​​the body ».

We often wonder if it is sun exposure that triggers vitiligo. In reality it is not the UV rays coming from the sun that trigger this skin disease, rather they can make it noticed more. As? Accentuating the contrast between healthy skin that "colors" and that affected by the disease that maintains the initial color.


«The diagnosis is made by a specialist following a visit in which the degree of intensity of the decrease in pigmentation is assessed. In the case of localized vitiligo, the intensity of the decrease in pigmentation is assessed by comparison with the adjacent healthy skin. Otherwise, the evaluation is made through the comparison with the skin of the parents ».

Furthermore, to rule out the presence of other autoimmune diseases, it is good for the person with vitiligo to carry out an antibody screening. In the event that the patient complains of visual disturbances, it is also advisable to carry out an eye examination as there is a possible association with eye diseases. Similarly, it is better to investigate any complained hearing disorders, as they could be an alarm bell for hereditary diseases.


«Vitiligo manifests itself through the appearance of evident spots of variable size and irregular outlines. The patches are milky white, evenly distributed. This pathology can affect different areas of the body such as elbows, knees, back of hands, navel, wrist, face. The hair of the affected areas is often white, but sometimes it can be sparse or fall out.


As the expert explains, the vitiligo treatment plan includes various treatments such as:

  • phototherapy. It is one of the most effective therapeutic approaches. Specifically, the appearance of repigmentation in the areas affected by the disease is stimulated through ultraviolet radiation which can be combined with the systemic or topical administration of photosensitizing products;
  • topical corticosteroids. They are indicated for the treatment of localized forms of vitiligo and for children who cannot undergo phototherapy;
  • autologous transplantation of melanocytes (the cells that color the epidermis) and non-cultured basal cells. It is one of the newest vitiligo surgery techniques that is used when other treatments have not given the desired result. Specifically, starting from the consideration that the vitiligo patches depend on the low activity of melanocytes, we operate by "sowing" in the spots, well-functioning melanocytes taken from areas where the skin is healthy. The positive aspect is that the side effects are practically zero, what could happen instead is that the situation remains the same as it was before the intervention. However, you can count on a very high success rate, that is, the color returns to over 70% of the spots.

Furthermore, studies have recently been published on the efficacy of two new phototherapy sources for the treatment of vitiligo: the monochromatic excimer light and the 308 nm excimer laser. Both allow you to irradiate the patches of vitiligo without affecting the adjacent healthy skin.

Treatments of the future

“To date there are no specific medicines for the treatment of vitiligo, however several drug trials have begun. In fact, we are also working on a specific topical so if there are significant results, we could get to have the first topical drug for the treatment of vitiligo "concludes the expert.

In general, vitiligo is a pathology that can appear at any time in life and can be treated through different therapeutic plans. Of great note are the continuous studies and experiments in progress that could soon lead to treating this skin pathology even more effectively.

Tag: Vitiligo disorders

Category: Health
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