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Am J Clin Dermatol. 2001;2(3):167-81.

Vitiligo. Pathogenesis and treatment.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Vitiligo is an acquired skin disorder caused by the disappearance of pigment cells from the epidermis that gives rise to well defined white patches which are often symmetrically distributed. The lack of melanin pigment makes the lesional skin more sensitive to sunburn. Vitiligo can be cosmetically disfiguring and it is a stigmatizing condition, leading to serious psychologic problems in daily life. It occurs worldwide in about 0.5% of the population and it occurs as frequently in males as it does in females. The cause is unknown, but might involve genetic factors, autoimmunity, neurologic factors, toxic metabolites, and lack of melanocyte growth factors. Since a causative (gene) treatment is not (yet) available, current modalities are directed towards stopping progression and to achieving repigmentation in order to repair the morphology and functional deficiencies of the depigmented skin areas. Many treatments have been used for some time; however; there are some new developments: narrowband ultraviolet (UV) B (311 nm) therapy, the combination of corticosteroid cream + UVA therapy, and the transplantation of autologous pigment cells in various modalities. In widespread vitiligo, residual pigment can be removed by depigmentation agents. Sunscreens, camouflage products, and good guidance may help the patient cope better with the disease.

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