Vitiligo is a skin condition characterised by well-demarcated white patches caused by melanocyte loss or destructions. Melanocytes are cells that produce pigment and is responsible for the colour in our skin, hair and eye. As a result of melanocyte loss or destruction, vitiligo lesions may look like white patches as shown in the following images (courtesy of DermNetNZ.org).
However, not all white patches are due to vitiligo and it can be quite difficult to differentiate which condition is which based on photos. Here’s why! Have a look at the photos below and see if you can tell which condition might be responsible for each photo.
Differentiating these conditions from vitiligo requires a skin examination. A handy tool your doctor may use include a Wood’s lamp which emits a violet colour light with wavelength of approximately 320-450nm. When the Wood’s lamp is shone over a vitiligo lesion it will shine a bright fluorescence white. Other clues may include examining the border, pattern, location as well as other features present in the lesion.
So, if you are suspecting vitiligo, see your dermatologists for an assessment and management. For more information about other conditions similar to vitiligo, have a read of Dr John E. Harris blog post here.
Dr Jennifer Nguyen - Secretary of the VAA