Diagnosing vitiligo 

Vitiligo can usually be diagnosed by your GP, based on a skin examination. Further tests are rarely needed.

Your GP will need to see all your patches to estimate how much of your body area is affected. They will also ask how long you have had the patches.

Your GP may ask whether:

  • there is a history of vitiligo in your family
  • there is a history of other autoimmune conditions in your family 
  • you have injured the affected area of skin – for example, you have had sunburn or a severe rash there
  • you tan easily in the sun, or whether you burn 
  • any areas have got better without treatment, or whether they are getting worse
  • you have tried any treatments already

Your GP may also ask about the impact that vitiligo has on your life. For example:

  • how much it affects your confidence and self-esteem
  • whether it affects your job

Wood’s lamp

If one is available, your GP may use an ultraviolet (UV) lamp called a Wood’s lamp to look at your skin in more detail. You will need to be in a dark room and the lamp will be held 10-13cm (4-5in) away from your skin.

Under the UV light, the patches of vitiligo will be easier to see. This can help your GP tell the difference between vitiligo and other skin conditions, such as pityriasis versicolor (a yeast infection that causes a loss of pigment in small, round patches).

Other autoimmune conditions

Non-segmental vitiligo, the most common type of vitiligo, is closely associated with other autoimmune conditions. You may be assessed to see if you have any symptoms that could suggest an autoimmune condition, such as:

A blood sample may also be needed to test your thyroid for conditions such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

Page last reviewed: 03/10/2014

Next review due: 03/10/2016