Vitiligo is a chronic skin condition characterized by portions of the skin losing their pigment. It occurs when skin pigment cells die or are unable to function. Aside from cases of contact with certain chemicals, the cause of vitiligo is unknown. Research suggests vitiligo may arise from autoimmune, genetic, oxidative stress, neural, or viral causes. The global incidence of vitiligo is less than 1%, with some populations averaging 2–3% and rarely as high as 16%.
In around half of people affected it starts before the age of 20-25, although it can occur at any age. Men and women are equally affected, as are people of different ethnicities.
There is no cure for vitiligo but several treatment options are available. The best evidence is for applied steroids and the combination of ultraviolet light in combination with creams. Due to the higher risks of skin cancer, the United Kingdom's National Health Service suggests phototherapy only be used if primary treatments are ineffective.
There has been an increase in the amount of research being undertaken in vitiligo over recent years and dermatologists have an improved understanding of the natural history and different types of the condition.