Think You Have Vitiligo? Here’s How to Get a Diagnosis
Medically reviewed by Dr. John Harris, dermatologist and Director of the UMass Vitiligo Clinic and Research Center.
Think you have vitiligo? A diagnosis can usually be determined by a physical exam, however doctors might suggest a skin biopsy or blood test if they need more information. Here’s how to prepare for your initial doctor’s appointment and get a diagnosis.
Book an appointment
Your first step should be to see your primary care doctor, who will ask you questions about your symptoms including when the spots appeared, how many spots you have and how quickly it is spreading. Your doctor may also do a full-body physical exam, possibly with an ultraviolet light, to determine the exact location and symmetry of the spots. Although your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist, you might eventually choose to see a vitiligo specialist if you want to pursue treatment.
Review personal and family medical history
Your past and current health condition may play a part in confirming a vitiligo diagnosis. Since vitiligo is an autoimmune disease, your doctor may ask if you or anyone else in your family has another diagnosed autoimmune disorder. Knowing your family’s medical history in advance will help your doctor move forward with accurate information during the appointment.
List recent life events and personal changes
According to Dr. John Harris, Director of the University of Massachusetts Vitiligo Clinic and Research Center, your genetic makeup – which is set at birth – makes you more or less likely to get vitiligo. However, the white spots on your skin don’t appear until a chance event occurs either internally (which is not well-understood) or externally, such as a stressful triggering event. That’s why you might hear about cases of vitiligo starting after a physical or emotional stress trigger such as cutting your finger, giving birth, or losing a loved one. List recent major stressful events, both emotional and physical, that could be potential triggers for vitiligo.
Make note of questions you’d like to ask your doctor
A vitiligo diagnosis can be surprising – and overwhelming. Make a list of questions you’d like to ask your doctor in advance of the appointment to help make the most of your limited time together. Mayo Clinic provides a list of questions you might ask your doctor including: What tests do I need? Are there other possible causes? Which treatments are available? Do you have any resources about vitiligo? You can also review quick facts about vitiligo to make sure you understand the basics about this condition.
What questions do you have about getting a vitiligo diagnosis?
Erika Page is the Founder and Editor of Living Dappled. After getting vitiligo at the age of seven, she lost 100% of her pigment to the condition and today lives with universal vitiligo.