What Is Vitiligo and Who’s at Risk?

Vitiligo affects between 0.2 percent and 1 percent of the population around the world.

Vitiligo is a skin disorder that causes white patches to appear in place of the skin’s natural color. “Vitiligo is not contagious and is not an infection,” says Michelle Rodrigues, MD, a dermatologist based in Melbourne, Australia. Yet it’s not just a cosmetic issue — it’s truly a medical condition.

People from any race can be diagnosed with vitiligo, but it’s usually most noticeable among people with dark skin because of the contrast between the depigmented skin and the unaffected skin. Vitiligo affects between 0.2 percent and 1 percent of the population around the world. It doesn’t necessarily affect the skin only. Some people with vitiligo also lose coloring in their mouth, on their eyebrows or eyelashes, or in their hair.

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