Vitiligo is a skin condition characterized by portions of the skin losing their pigment. Vitiligo can even cause loss of pigment in the hair (graying) or the eyes. The pigment loss can appear anywhere on the body, but are commonly seen on the hands, face or chest, around orifices (nostrils, mouth, eyes, genitalia), in skin folds (groin, armpits) or where the skin has been damaged by cuts, scrapes or burns.
Melanocytes are the cells that create pigment (melanin) in the skin. With vitiligo these cells are destroyed and can no longer produce melanin. Doctors are unsure what causes vitiligo, but it may be the result of genetics, an immune system disorder or a trigger event such as stress, sunburn or exposure to industrial chemicals. Vitiligo is not contagious, and there are many effective treatment options.