How many vitiligo statistics do you know? Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with vitiligo or have lived with it for a while, you’re likely interested in learning more about this condition. And with an increase in research over the past few decades, there’s more information about vitiligo available today than ever before. Here’s a roundup of the latest statistics about vitiligo.
What is vitiligo?
Before we dive in, let’s start with the basics. What is vitiligo? Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks pigment-producing cells of the skin, resulting in depigmentation. Vitiligo can occur anywhere on the body and can cause depigmentation in the skin, hair, retina and mucous membranes.
Vitiligo can present in different ways for everyone, and there are five different types of vitiligo: generalized, segmental, focal, acrofacial and universal.
- Generalized vitiligo is by far the most common with depigmentation appearing in a few areas and usually progressing to cover more of the body.
- Segmental vitiligo only causes depigmentation on one side of the body.
- Focal vitiligo results in depigmentation in only one or two areas of the entire body.
- Acrofacial vitiligo occurs only on the lips, fingers, and toes.
- Universal vitiligo can result in 80-100% body depigmentation.
Vitiligo is not contagious and is not painful. However, the visible nature of the condition often results in significant social, psychological and emotional distress. While there are effective treatments for vitiligo, there is no cure.
Who gets vitiligo? Is vitiligo common? Or is vitiligo rare? Here are the answers, including what you need to know about the global frequency of vitiligo, how it affects people by age and ethnic group, and how types of vitiligo show up across the population.
Vitiligo affects 1% of the population worldwide, which today totals approximately 70 million people. Although vitiligo has been thought of as a rare disease by some, that statistic makes vitiligo common in the general population.
Race and Ethnicity
While vitiligo may be more noticeable in individuals with darker skin, it affects each ethnic group with largely equal frequencies. Currently in the United States, 0.07% of vitiligo cases are in blacks, 0.6% are in whites, 0.1% are in Hispanics, 0.1% are in Asians, and 0.6% are in multiracial individuals.
Vitiligo can affect individuals of any age. However, it typically begins in childhood, by the age of 20. In fact, 25% of vitiligo cases start before the age of 10, while 50% of vitiligo cases start before the age of 20. By the age of 30, 70-80% of vitiligo cases will have already developed. Developing vitiligo over the age of 30 is not as common, though roughly 20-30% of cases do develop in this age range.
Vitiligo affects individuals of both sexes equally.
Vitiligo frequency also varies by type. Generalized vitiligo accounts for roughly 0.5% of vitiligo cases in the general population, and has an average age of onset at 24, affecting men and women equally. Segmental vitiligo is a less common form of the disease and occurs in 5-16% of individuals with vitiligo, mostly affecting children. Focal vitiligo is a rare subtype, though 50% of these cases progress to generalized vitiligo within 2 years. (Did you know there are five types of vitiligo?)
Causes of Vitiligo
What causes vitiligo? There are many different factors that cause vitiligo, including genetics and environmental triggers such as stress or skin trauma. Here are some of the vitiligo statistics we know today.
Can vitiligo be passed on genetically? It’s natural to wonder if your child or family can get vitiligo if you also have the condition. Remember that without a first-degree relative, the risk is 1 in 100. Research shows that 20% of those with vitiligo have at least one close relative who is also affected. This means that if someone has vitiligo, the risk that a first-degree family member (parent, sibling, child) also has vitiligo is 5% higher than the risk in the general population. (That means 1 in 20 first-degree relatives.)
Have you ever heard of getting vitiligo after getting a cut on your finger? This is an example of the Koebner response, which occurs when a pre-existing skin condition appears on a previously unaffected area of the body after some form of physical trauma. The reported rates of Koebner response in people with vitiligo range widely from 21-62%. Additionally, Koebner is more likely to cause vitiligo after someone has already lost pigment from the condition.
Vitiligo and Related Health Issues
Can vitiligo affect more than your pigment? According to recent research, it can, but that doesn’t mean that it will. Here’s what we know about vitiligo and autoimmune disease, hearing loss and vision loss.
Vitiligo can also present with other autoimmune diseases. Up to 15-25% of individuals with vitiligo are also affected by another autoimmune disease, such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, alopecia areata, type 1 diabetes, and pernicious anemia. The most common of these is thyroid disease, found in 12.9% of individuals with vitiligo. (Did you know there are more than 100 types of autoimmune disease?)
Hearing and vision
Vitiligo has also been found to be associated with an impact on hearing and vision. A 2010 study found that 35% of individuals with vitiligo have some form of hearing loss. Another study found that there is a 5% prevalence of vision problems, specifically uveitis (inflammation inside the eye), in those living with vitiligo.
Complete list of vitiligo statistics
Looking for a short cut? Here’s our complete list of vitiligo statistics.
- 1% of the worldwide population has vitiligo
- 0.07% of vitiligo cases in the U.S. are in blacks
- 0.6% of vitiligo cases in the U.S are in whites
- 0.1% of vitiligo cases in the U.S are in Hispanics
- 0.1% of vitiligo cases in the U.S are in Asians
- 0.6% of vitiligo cases in the U.S are in multiracial individuals
- 25% of vitiligo cases start before the age of 10
- 50% of vitiligo cases start before the age of 20
- 70-80% of vitiligo cases develop by age 30
- 20-30% of vitiligo cases develop after age 30
- 0.5% of the general population has the generalized subtype of vitiligo
- 5-16% of vitiligo cases are the segmental subtype
- 50% of focal vitiligo cases progress to generalized vitiligo
- 20% of those with vitiligo have at least one close relative who is also affected
- 15-25% of individuals with vitiligo have another autoimmune disease
- 12.9% of those with vitiligo have autoimmune thyroid disease
- 21-62% of those with vitiligo will experience the Koebner Response
- 35% of individuals with vitiligo have some level of hearing loss
- 5% of those with vitiligo have vision problems
Rachita Pandya is a medical student with an interest in clinical dermatology. She hopes to empower and educate others on how to embrace their skin. In her free time, she likes to cook, travel, and spend time with friends and family.