​Vitiligo


Vitiligo is a skin disorder in which the skin loses its colour resulting in light or white patches. If vitiligo appears on areas that have hair, the hair may also turn white. Melanin is a chemical, produced by the skin cells, which gives skin its colour. Vitiligo occurs when cells producing melanin are destroyed or do not function properly. The damage to melanin producing cells (melanocytes) may be due to the attack of the immune system on the cells, exposure to industry chemical, stress, sunburn or a hereditary disorder. It is occurs across all ages, and it usually appears before the age of twenty. Vitiligo is more of a cosmetic concern as it is not contagious or life-threatening. The patches may spread or remain the same for years. Vitiligo is a fairly rare disease, and though it affects all races and genders, it is most visible in people with darker skin.​


Vitiligo signs can appear on a few parts of your body, only on one side of the body or many parts of your body. These signs include:

  • Skin discoloration

  • Premature whitening or greying of hair, usually before mid-thirties

  • Loss of colour in the mucous membranes

  • Loss of /or change in colour in the retina

  • Discoloured patches around the armpits, navel, genitals and rectum

Visit our doctors at the Teeth and Skin Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital if you notice any such patches on your hair, skin or eyes.

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Initially, your doctor will ask about your medical history and examine the white patches. Vitiligo is quite easily distinguishable. For further confirmation, your doctor may examine your skin under a special lamp which shines ultraviolet light on the skin.

Vitiligo is not life-threatening but it can make you feel self-conscious about your appearance. Unfortunately, vitiligo has no cure, but there are many treatments available that would even out your skin tone or help restore your skin colour.

Your doctor at the Teeth and Skin Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital  will discuss all your possible treatment options, including their side-effects and effectiveness, so that a treatment plan can be devised that you are most comfortable with. Your options may include:

  • Camouflage therapy:

    • Using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that shields from UVA (Ultraviolet A) and UVB (Ultraviolet B). This minimizes tanning thereby limiting the contrast between normal and affected skin

    • Specialized makeup to camouflage the areas that have lost their colour

  • Medications:

    • Corticosteroids may be taken orally or applied on the skin that may return colour to the skin. It may take several months for the results to appear. 

    • A form of vitamin D applied topically. 

    • Topical immunomodulators which affects the immune system. It may be affected for people with small areas of discoloration, especially on the face and neck

  • Light therapy: which uses narrow bands of ultraviolet B light. The treatment can be carried out in your doctor’s office for up to three times a week

  • Laser therapy: with an excimer laser, which uses special wavelengths of UVB light to bring colour back to the areas of discoloration. It is suitable for people with small areas of affected skin. 

  • Surgery:

    • Skin grafting in which small sections of normal pigmented skin is taken from one part of the body to cover the affected parts of the skin. 

    • Micro-pigmentation or tattooing which is usually most effective around the lips. In this technique the skin is implanted with pigments using special surgical instruments

Please discuss your treatment options with a doctor, as they will be able to inform you of all the benefits and risks associated with each treatment option available to you.
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
 
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
 
The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.



​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.