Skin - Melanocytic tumor
Other pigmented lesions and disorders of pigmentation

Author: Christopher Hale, M.D. (see Authors page)

Revised: 22 February 2017, last major update April 2013

Copyright: (c) 2002-2017,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Vitiligo

Cite this page: Vitiligo. website. Accessed June 20th, 2018.
Definition / general
  • Partial or complete loss of pigment producing melanocytes within epidermis (Wikipedia, eMedicine)
  • Patterns:
    • Focal (only a few areas)
    • Segmented (one side of body only)
    • Generalized (most common, both sides of body)
    • Trichrome (patient has three shades of skin color)
  • Affects 1% of world's population; more noticeable in dark skinned individuals
  • Usually hands / wrists, axilla, perioral, periorbital or anogenital skin
Clinical features
  • Asymptomatic, flat and well demarcated zones of pigment loss, due to an autoimmune disorder associated with pernicious anemia, Addison disease and Hashimoto thyroiditis
  • Perilesional skin up to 5 cm from vitiligo spot is still lighter than normal (Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 2008;24:314)
  • Associated with polymorphisms in COX2 gene (J Dermatol Sci 2009;53:176), mutations of autoimmune regulator gene (Br J Dermatol 2008;159:591)
  • May cause severe psychological distress
  • May worsen with local trauma (cuts, scrapes, burns, Koebner phenomenon)
  • Decreased risk for melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer (Br J Dermatol 2013;168:162)
Clinical images

Images hosted on other servers:

Various images

Marginal inflammatory




Autologous epidermal graft using suction blister

Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Difficult to diagnose by micro alone
  • Decreased melanocytes (use S100 or MelanA and control biopsy from adjacent normal skin, Am J Dermatopathol 2008;30:112)
Electron microscopy description
Differential diagnosis
  • Leukoderma: chemical, melanoma related, scleroderma related; acquired condition with localized loss of skin pigmentation associated with inflammatory skin conditions, burns, intralesional steroid injections, postdermabrasion (Wikipedia)
  • Oculocutaneous albinism: melanocytes present, but no melanin due to defect in tyrosinase enzyme or melanogenesis