Vitiligo: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Medically reviewed by Doctor Kee Yong Seng on Aug 1, 2019


Vitiligo is a skin disorder where white patches develop on the skin in different parts of the body. It happens when the skin pigment cells (melanocytes) are destroyed through numerous factors. This skin condition can also affect the eye and other parts include mucous membrane like mouth and nose.

Vitiligo happens to people of any gender, age, race, and ethnicity. It is not contagious and doesn’t cause any harm to those who suffered from it except for aesthetic.


A main symptom of vitiligo is having visible white patches on the skin. The white patches commonly appear at the skin that were exposed to the sun. It is almost impossible and rare cases for the white patches and skin pigment to return to its original colours once it developed. Other common areas that may be affected by the white patches include:

  •   Eyes
  •   Nostrils
  •   Navel
  •   Rectal Area
  •   Armpits
  •   Genitals
  •   Hair –  It may turn gray

The white patches that appear may stay the same or might increase in size or number.  The condition is depending on your genetic, immune system and also environmental.


There are two types of vitiligo skin condition, namely non-segmental and segmental. Among these two types, non-segmental vitiligo is the most common one. Non-segmental will appear on both sides of your body as symmetrical white patches. The appearance of vitiligo can be seen on skin that commonly exposed to the sun such as face, neck, arms, feet and hands. The development of non-segmental type will slower if the patches only grow in one area only.

Non-segmental vitiligo can be sub-categorised into 5 types which affected different areas.


This category of vitiligo doesn’t affect any specific area. The patches are visible at any part of the body.


 It mostly appears on the finger and toes.


This appears mostly around the mucous membranes and lips.


It is rare but when it happens, it will cover most of the body.


The patches develop at the scattered area.

While segmental vitiligo occurs much less compared to the non-segmental type. It spreads more rapidly and the patches only affect one area of the body which likely area of skin attached to nerves arising in the dorsal roots of the spine. It is known to be more constant, stable and less erratic than the non-segmental type.


The exact cause is unknown, but it may be due to an autoimmune disorder or a virus. Most experts and doctors said that vitiligo commonly caused by the genetically and immune system. For immune system case, the melanocytes may be destroyed by the immune system or themselves. Melanocytes are a pigment-forming cell that provide pigment or melanin to the skin where the function is to protect the skin.

It is also possible for genes to make a person more likely to get the disorder. Excessive sunburn and emotional distress may also cause vitiligo to appear. Although there is no proven evidence to support this, vitiligo often happens to people with dark skin instead of fair skin.

Vitiligo may be passed through heredity from one generation to another. If the family has it, you are likely to get it.  Vitiligo also may be triggered by other autoimmune diseases like thyroid and type 1 diabetes


Preventing vitiligo is more important than cure it. It is because there is no cure for vitiligo. Here are some self-care ways that may help in skin health and appearance. Basic step in taking care of your skin health is protecting your skin from the sun and artificial sources of UV light. People with vitiligo particularly have light skin. Thus, using broad-spectrum, water resistant, and SPF at least 30 is a must in order to protect the skin condition. Always wear full clothes to cover your skin to prevent sunburn and long-term skin damage.

Do avoid getting a tattoo which is not related to the vitiligo. Having too much tattoo on the skin may cause a new patch of vitiligo to appear within two weeks. There is also some food which recognised to worsen the condition of vitiligo. It may vary from one to another especially to those that have very sensitive skin.

  • Alcohol
  • Blueberries
  • Coffee
  • Citrus
  • Pickles
  • Pomegranate
  • Red meats


There is no proven evidence that eating certain foods could improve or worsen the condition of vitiligo. But, it is a fact that people with genetic problem or condition may lack in healthy levels of certain nutrients. Increase in intake of vitamins and food that contains high level of nutrients might help in preventing vitiligo.  

Here are some foods that may be helpful including:

  • Bananas
  • Apple
  • Leafy green (kale, spinach, and romaine)
  • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • Root vegetables (beets, carrots, celery and radishes)
  • Figs and dates
  • Lemon
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Turmeric

Drinking a lot of water may help in keeping body stay hydrated which is crucial for health and well being. Vitiligo is an autoimmune skin condition, thus eating immune system-boosting foods that contain phytochemicals, beta-carotene and antioxidants definitely help in prevention. Some minerals also may help in preventing vitiligo recurrence like copper, iron and zinc.


Vitiligo is a lifelong condition to whom who suffered from it. There is no known cure and usually, all the treatments available are just to ease the symptoms and improve the appearance of affected skin. Vitiligo can be diagnosed through physical exam by looking at the skin condition. 

Some treatments are designed to base on the patient’s condition. It may vary from one patient to another. Moreover, some treatment may come with unwanted side effects. There are a number of treatment and medications that can be used to treat vitiligo including:

Others treatment


Uses of sunscreen at the affected area like lighter patches of the skin will help to protect the skin from getting burn easily.

Skin camouflage/ cosmetic

Cosmetic creams and makeup can be used to cover white patches for the mild cases of vitiligo. It may help in improving the appearance by selecting the best match of skin features. Most of cosmetics available now are designed to be waterproof.

If you’d like to know more about vitiligo and its solution, please call us to arrange a consultation session. We are available from 8am to 12 midnight DAILY.

Call/Whatsapp: 012-662-5552


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