a dermatologist examining a patient's vitiligo

Discussing Vitiligo with Your Dermatologist

Vitiligo is a disease that causes the melanin-producing cells in your skin to be disrupted. Because of this, you will develop growing patches of depigmentation, which means spots that lack color. These patches can spread throughout your entire body. There is currently no cure for vitiligo, but if you get diagnosed as soon as possible, there are many treatment options that can help slow the spread of the depigmentation or improve the appearance of your skin.

A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in skin disorders, and you will likely be referred to one by your primary doctor if you go in for a diagnosis. To prepare for your appointment, make sure that you have reviewed your family history and take notice of any family members who ever had vitiligo or any other condition that is linked to the immune system. Make sure to also make a list of potentially helpful information to bring with you to the appointment, such as relevant personal information, medical conditions, and medications you are taking.

During your appointment, you can expect your doctor to ask certain questions in order to confirm your diagnosis. These will probably include:

  • When did you first notice the light patches forming on your skin?
  • Did you notice a sunburn or rash that preceded the appearance of the patches?
  • Have you noticed increased sensitivity to the sun?
  • Are you experiencing any other symptoms from the patches, such as itching?
  • Have you ever experienced patches like this appear on your skin before?
  • Is there a history of vitiligo, thyroid conditions, or autoimmune disease in your family?
  • Are you ever exposed to harsh chemicals during your daily activities?
  • Are you experiencing a decreased quality of life due to this condition?

Write down any questions you might want to ask your dermatologist beforehand in order to take advantage of and get the most out of your appointment. Some good questions to remember might be:

  • What are all of the possible causes that fit my symptoms?
  • Do I need a test to confirm my diagnosis?
  • Will this be a condition that I live with for the rest of my life?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Which treatments do you think are the most effective?
  • Are there any side effects from treatment?
  • Is there anything I can do on a daily basis to improve my condition?
  • Do you have any recommendations for effective concealers?
  • Is there a website you would recommend that has useful information?

After examining your skin and asking you questions, your dermatologist will likely take a small biopsy from the affected skin or draw blood for lab tests to determine a definite diagnosis. If your diagnosis is confirmed as vitiligo, your doctor might also recommend you see an ophthalmologist to examine your eyes for inflammation, as well as an audiologist for a hearing evaluation, since vitiligo increases your risk for hearing loss.