Vitiligo is caused by the lack of a pigment called melanin in the skin. Melanin is produced by skin cells called melanocytes, and it gives your skin its color.
In vitiligo, there aren't enough working melanocytes to produce enough melanin in your skin. This causes white patches to develop on your skin or hair. It's not clear exactly why the melanocytes disappear from the affected areas of skin.
Non-segmental vitiligo (the most common type) is thought to be an autoimmune condition. In autoimmune conditions, the immune system doesn't work properly. Instead of attacking foreign cells, such as viruses, your immune system attacks your body's healthy cells and tissue. If you have non-segmental vitiligo, your immune system destroys the melanocyte skin cells that make melanin.
The white patches caused by vitiligo are usually permanent, although treatment options are available to improve the appearance of your skin. If the patches are relatively small, skin camouflage cream can be used to cover them up. In general, combination treatments, such as phototherapy (treatment with light) and medication, give the best results. Although treatment may help restore color to your skin, the effect doesn't usually last. Treatment can't stop the condition spreading.