Debunking Vitiligo Myths: A Rare Skin Condition


Vitiligo is a non-contagious skin condition that causes pale patches due to a lack of melanin which gives color to our skin, thus leading to depigmentation or loss of skin color. In India, the prevalence of vitiligo ranges from 0.25% to 4% among dermatology patients, with higher rates in regions like Gujarat and Rajasthan, where it can be as high as 8.8%[1]. While it is not dangerous, it can greatly affect a person’s self-confidence and may result in social stigma and discrimination. In order to change the negative view of vitiligo, it is crucial to dispel false beliefs about the condition.

Here are some common myths about vitiligo and the corresponding facts that debunk these misconceptions.

Myth: Vitiligo is caused by drinking milk.
Fact: The belief that consuming sour or citrus foods can aggravate vitiligo and that drinking milk after eating fish can cause the condition, is not supported by scientific evidence However, according to Ayurveda, combining milk and fish can cause indigestion and skin allergy.It is important to note that vitiligo is an autoimmune disease caused by the immune system attacking skin pigments, and genetics and environment play a role in its development. Therefore, diet does not affect the condition[2,4].

Myth: Vitiligo can be spread from person to person.
Fact: Vitiligo is a non-contagious skin condition, meaning it cannot be spread from person to person. It cannot be spread through physical contact, saliva, breathing in, sexual activity, or sharing personal items like water bottles and towels. Many people believe that vitiligo is contagious because it looks similar to leprosy, a contagious disease that also causes white patches on the skin due to hypopigmentation[2]. If you have a friend with vitiligo, don’t hesitate to hug them!

Myth: Vitiligo heals on its own.
Fact: Sometimes vitiligo can disappear on its own, but if left untreated, vitiligo can result in the expansion of white patches and the formation of lesions around the affected area due to scratching. Seeking medical treatment for vitiligo is the safest option rather than trying to remove it yourself or waiting for it to go away[2].

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Myth: Vitiligo is caused by sun damage.
Fact: Vitiligo, a condition characterized by white patches on the skin, can be mistaken for sunburn because it looks different from the surrounding skin. There is a misconception that vitiligo is linked to the excessive use of skin whitening products or an increased risk of skin cancer. However, vitiligo is actually caused by the immune system attacking and destroying pigments beneath the skin, rather than on the surface[2,3].

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Myth: Vitiligo cannot be cured or treated.
Fact: Medical treatments for vitiligo may take several months to show results, but they can help restore skin pigmentation and prevent the condition from spreading. It’s important to take gentle care of the treated area during the healing process. Different treatment options, such as medication, therapy, and surgery, are available, but they can be lengthy and may affect the patient’s mental well-being due to the negative stigma of vitiligo. However, proper treatment can effectively eliminate the condition[3].

Myth: Vitiligo is associated with other skin conditions like skin cancer, leprosy, and albinism.
Fact: Vitiligo is different from skin cancer, leprosy, and albinism. While albinism is a condition where there is little melanin present at birth, vitiligo is caused by the destruction of melanocytes. Unlike skin cancer and leprosy, vitiligo only affects skin color and does not cause physical impairment. Getting the correct diagnosis from a dermatologist is important to avoid mistaking one condition for another[1,2].

To avoid developing vitiligo, it’s important to use sunscreen, avoid certain activities like getting tattoos or dyeing your hair, keep your immune system healthy, and consume specific vitamins and minerals. Living with vitiligo can be difficult and may negatively impact mental health due to societal attitudes. People with vitiligo should be treated with kindness instead of being stigmatized, which can help alleviate their psychological distress. A compassionate approach towards these patients can greatly improve their well-being.

(The article is reviewed by Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor)


1. Rajoshee R Dutta, Tanishq Kumar, and Nishikant Ingole. Diet and Vitiligo: The Story So Far. Published online 28th Aug. 2022.
2. Myths About Vitiligo. Pfizer.
3. Vitiligo. Overview Of Vitiligo. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders.Updated Oct. 2022.
4. Dr. Vasant Lad. Food Combining. The Ayurvedic Institute.Updated online 2016.

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