Vitiligo sometimes runs in families, but the inheritance pattern is complex (caused by the interaction of multiple genes with environmental factors), and most of the specific genetic and environmental factors that contribute to developing the condition have not been identified. Therefore, it is difficult to predict the exact risk for other family members to develop vitiligo. About one-fifth of people with this condition have at least one close relative who is also affected. Variations in the NLRP1 and PTPN22 genes have been associated with an increased risk of developing vitiligo; studies have suggested that variations in a number of other genes may also affect the risk of vitiligo, but most of these associations have not been confirmed. Many of these genes are involved in immune system function, and some of the gene changes associated with an increased risk of vitiligo have also been associated with an increased risk of other autoimmune conditions. It is unclear what specific environmental circumstances may trigger the immune system to attack melanocytes (skin cells that produce melanin for pigmentation) in people who have vitiligo.
Last updated: 2/27/2014
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