Summary of diagnostic features
- Patches with loss of pigment in the skin
- Family history
- Association with autoimmune disease.
- Woods lamp examination
- Skin biopsy
The most important symptom of vitiligo is usually the appearance of a light colored patch in the skin, referred to as de-pigmentation. This de-pigmentation (loss of skin color) may vary in shade from patient to patient and also from one patch to the other. Such white patches are more common on the peripheral parts of the body (like face, hands, torso and genitalia) which are more exposed to sun light. This distribution is some time called centrifugal distribution.
The white/lighter color patches of vitiligo are more easily seen in the dark skin. Vitiligo may be noticed only in winter in the white races when the surrounding skin is tanned, and vitiligo affected skin stands out by contrast, so vitiligo diagnose in white races is relatively difficult. The skin in vitiligo patches is usually sensitive to sun (photo sensitivity) and sun burns are common symptoms of vitiligo. Similar white patches can be seen on the mucus membranes (the internal surfaces of the body like inside of mouth, nose and private parts) of certain people. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease and is hence associated with many other auto immune disorders, especially thyroid disease. It is common to have more than one members in the family who are effected by vitiligo. Hair in the affected area may also lose their pigment and may even fall down in extreme cases. Eyes may be affected in vitiligo by a condition known as uveitis (inflammation of choroidal layer of the eye)
A small piece of skin is removed under local anesthesia for microscopic examination.