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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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* Not a rare disease
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Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) in the skin are destroyed. As a result, white patches appear on the skin in different parts of the body, and sometimes also on both the mucous membranes and the retina.[1] The average age of onset is in the mid-20s.[2] It is generally considered to be an autoimmune disorder, and about 20-25 percent of people with vitiligo also have at least one other autoimmune disorder. In the absence of other conditions, vitiligo does not affect general health; however, concerns about appearance and ethnic identity are significant issues for many affected individuals.[2] The exact cause of vitiligo is not known, but there are several different theories. There is strong evidence that people with vitiligo inherit a group of genes that make them susceptible to depigmentation. The main goal of treating vitiligo is to improve appearance; current treatment options include medication, surgery, and adjunctive therapies (used along with surgical or medical treatments).[1]
Last updated: 11/20/2012


  1. Vitiligo. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). August 2010; Accessed 11/20/2012.
  2. Vitiligo. Genetics Home Reference. December 2010; Accessed 11/20/2012.
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3 question(s) from the public on Vitiligo have been answered. See questions and answers. You can also submit a new question.

Basic Information

  • Genetics Home Reference (GHR) contains information on Vitiligo. This website is maintained by the National Library of Medicine.
  • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
  • The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases, the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research, and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. Click on the link to view information on this topic.

In Depth Information

  • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. Click on the link to view this information. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
  • The Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is an catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 
  • Orphanet is a European reference portal for information on rare diseases and orphan drugs.  Access to this database is free of charge.
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Vitiligo. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.