SKIN LIGHTENING1 - WatsonsHealth


Skin lightening or vitiligo is a skin disorder wherein pigment cells producing melanin are destroyed, causing white patches on some areas of the skin. These pigments are called melanocytes which are responsible for giving the skin its characteristic color. Depigmentation can be localized to one area or it may affect different parts of the body. Changes in the skin color may be more visible for people who have dark skin.

Experts believed that vitiligo is the result of the immune system mistakenly attacking the pigment cells of the skin called melanocytes hence the pigment is loss. It also appears to be an inherited condition. Meaning, your risk of developing this disease is high if one of your parent or family member already has it.

High chances of getting vitiligo is also linked to other autoimmune diseases such as:

  • Alopecia areata
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Addison’s disease
  • Genetic disease pernicious anemia

The main symptom of vitiligo are white patches on the skin, an indication of depigmentation.

There are three different possible patterns of depigmentation:

  • Focal pattern– the loss of skin color appears in only a few small areas.
  • Segmental pattern– depigmentation occurs on one side of the body.
  • Generalized pattern– the loss of melanin occurs on both sides of the body in a symmetrical pattern.

Other symptoms of Vitiligo are:

  • Hair that turns gray early
  • Loss of color on the inside of the mouth


To diagnose Vitiligo, your doctor may ask for your medical history. He or she may also perform a physical exam. To confirm diagnosis, your doctor may order different tests such as:

  • Biopsy or taking a small sample of the affected skin to be examined
  • Blood tests
  • An eye exam



Vitiligo can be treated but not cured. The goal of the treatment would be restoring color to the white patches of skin or lightening the pigmented areas to match those white patches.

Treatment may depend upon the number of white patches, severity and the choice of the person. Vitiligo is benign and painless. Most people treat this condition for cosmetic purposes.

Some of the treatments are:

  • Medical Treatments
    • Topical medications- Steroid creams are used to repigment the white patches of skin.
    • Immunomodulators- These are ointments that can be used for small areas of pigment loss on the face and neck.
    • Ultraviolet Light- It can restore pigment in some people with vitiligo. Most people who undergo UV treatment are required to take a medication called Psoralen. The combination of psoralen and UVA rays can darken the light areas of the skin.
    • Depigmentation- This process is reserved for those who present with vitiligo on more than half of their body. The goal is to match your normal pigmented skin to the areas affected by vitiligo.
  • Surgical Treatments
    • Skin grafting- In this procedure, a healthy skin is taken and place in an area that has been affected by vitiligo.
    • Tattoo- Tattooing small areas of skin to match the pigmented areas.
  • Other Treatments
    • Cosmetics – Make-up or dye may cover small white patches.
    • Counselling and support- People with Vitiligo may experience criticism or low self-esteem. Counselling may help them change their views to have a more positive outlook of their condition.

Related Articles


Overview and FactsTypes and SymptomsDiagnosis & MedicationsOverview and Facts Tetralogy of Fallot is a congenital heart defect that affects the [...]


Overview and FactsTypes and SymptomsDiagnosis & MedicationsOverview and Facts Trichinosis, also known as trichinellosis, is a parasitic infection caused by [...]


Overview and FactsTypes and SymptomsDiagnosis & MedicationsOverview and Facts Trigeminal neuralgia is a neurological condition characterized by severe facial pain. [...]