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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Spots on the Skin
August 2001

Q. My cousin and I are the only ones in our family who have these white spots on our body. They are in bunches. It's like we lost pigment in our skin. I know I am anemic but I was wondering what this could be and if it is in any way dangerous.

A. Your description sounds like a condition called vitiligo, in which certain areas of skin lose their ability to produce pigment. It affects about one person per one hundred in the general population, and can be mild with only a few small patches, or quite extensive. The cause is unknown, but there is likely a genetic factor involved as often more than one person in a family is affected. Various treatments are available, usually given by a dermatologist, and may include medication or ultraviolet light therapy.

Your doctor should examine you to confirm the diagnosis. Vitiligo patients have a higher likelihood of certain other ailments such as diabetes and thyroid problems as well.



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