Vitiligo physical examination

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: João André Alves Silva, M.D. [2], Jesus Rosario Hernandez, M.D. [3]


Vitiligo is a chronic skin condition that causes loss of pigment, resulting in irregular pale patches of skin that may be distributed according to different patterns.

Physical Examination


Irregular pale nonscaling macules of skin with different sizes are present. These may be distributed under 5 general patterns:[1]

  1. Bilaterally distributed, in a symmetrical manner, located on the trunk, face and extremities.
  2. Segmentally distributed, occupying one whole side of the body or simply one single site.
  3. Acrofacially distributed, located in areas such as: perioral area, lips, hands and feet.
  4. Universally distributed when occupying more than half of the body surface area.
  5. Mixed distribution, combining different patterns described above.

In some occasions the limits of these lesions may be erythematous. Also, hair and mucous membranes are often affected, appearing hypopigmented.

After adequate evaluation of the skin of vitiligo patients, the hypopigmented lesions should also be evaluated in a dark room, under the Wood's light. This is a source of UVA light that allows the evaluation of the skin areas with depigmentation, enhancing the details and tones of these areas. Areas such as axillae and genitalia should be evaluated carefully, since these are frequently involved regions that may be missed without this test.[2]

According to the type of vitiligo presented by the patient, there may be different findings on the physical examination, which may be considered characteristic of that specific type of the disease. These may include:[3]

  • Type A, Nonsegmental or Generalized
  • Type B or Segmental



  1. Soutor, Carol (2013). Clinical dermatology. New York: McGraw-Hill Education/Lange Medical Books. ISBN 978-0-07-177296-9.
  2. Habif, Thomas (2010). Clinical dermatology a color guide to diagnosis and therapy. Edinburgh: Mosby Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-7234-3541-9.
  3. Habif, Thomas (2010). Clinical dermatology a color guide to diagnosis and therapy. Edinburgh: Mosby Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-7234-3541-9.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 4.26 4.27 4.28 4.29 4.30 "Dermatology Atlas".