Vitiligo can start at any age, however the majority of patients experience symptom onset before age 30.
The most obvious sign of vitiligo is loss of pigment in a region of skin, resulting in milky-white, irregularly shaped patches. Often, the first white patch usually develops where the skin has been exposed to the sun.
The contrast between vitiligo skin and normal skin varies. In fair skinned people, vitiligo regions may only be noticeable in summer when normal skin tans. The contrast is more noticeable in darker skinned people. Vitiligo patches are commonly symmetrical and can potentially spread to the entire body. Vitiligo affects both sexes and all races equally.
Other Symptoms include:
- Premature whitening or graying of the hair on scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard
- Loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of mouth (mucous membranes)
- Loss or change in color of the inner layer of eye (retina)
Vitiligo generally appears in one of three patterns:
- Focal: Depigmentation is limited to one or a few areas of the body.
- Segmental: Loss of skin color typically occurs on only one side of the body, and is generally non-symmetrical.
- Generalized: Pigment loss may be widespread across many parts the body and may be symmetrical.
In the early stages of vitiligo development, it is difficult to determine the eventual extent of depigmentation. Factors including family history, location of depigmentation, and speed of onset all help to establish the type of vitiligo and potentially to what extent it will develop.