Vitiligo is a disorder in which white patches develop on the skin. The patches may appear on any part of the body, including the hair, eyes, and mouth.

The white patches are due to the destruction of melanocytes cells. These cells in the skin make pigment. Loss of pigment causes the skin to become lighter. It looks especially lighter compared to normal skin nearby. This is why vitiligo is more visible in darker-skinned people.

The exact cause of the pigment loss is not known. Possible causes include:

  • The body’s immune system may destroy the melanocytes
  • Melanocytes may destroy themselves
  • Defective nerve cells may make toxic substances that harm the melanocytes

It is likely that a genetic defect makes the cells more vulnerable to damage.