You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. You may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist).
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment and to know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Compile your family medical history. Find out if anyone in your family has a history of vitiligo, or a history of any thyroid or autoimmune disease.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses, recent life changes, or recent sunburns or skin rashes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so preparing a list of questions may help you make the most of your time together. For vitiligo, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
- Do I need any tests?
- Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
- What treatments are available and which do you recommend?
- What types of side effects can I expect from treatment?
- Are there any alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow, such as avoiding the sun at certain times or wearing a specific sunscreen?
- Can you recommend a cover-up or self-tanning product?
- Do you have brochures or other printed material I can take home? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions that arise.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
- When did you begin losing pigment?
- Did you have a sunburn or skin rash before you noticed your pigment loss?
- Do the areas of pigment loss itch or cause any other symptoms?
- Have you ever had this type of change before?
- Have you had a diagnosis of melanoma in the past?
- Does anyone in your family have a history of vitiligo, autoimmune diseases or both?
- What is your occupation and what are your hobbies? Are you exposed to any harsh chemicals in either?
What you can do in the meantime
While you're waiting to see the doctor, limit your sun exposure and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sunburn protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. If you're feeling self-conscious about the changes in your skin, you can use cosmetics or sunless tanning products (self-tanners) to cover the depigmented areas.
Apr. 21, 2011
- Goldstein BG, et al. Vitiligo. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2011.
- Vitiligo. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/common_vitilgo.html. Accessed Feb. 8, 2011.
- Questions and answers about vitiligo. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Vitiligo/default.asp. Accessed Feb. 8, 2011.
- Tahir MA, et al. Current remedies for vitiligo. Autoimmunity Reviews. 2010;9:516.
- Whitton ME, et al. Interventions for vitiligo (review). Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. 2010:CD7. http://www.thecochranelibrary.com. Accessed Feb. 8, 2011.
- Gawkrodger DJ, et al. Vitiligo: Concise evidence based guidelines on diagnosis and management. Postgraduate Medical Journal. 2010;86:466.