Piebaldism vs Vitiligo – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment


It is a rare autosomal dominant disorder (genetic inheritance pattern) of melanocyte development which is described by congenital patches of white hair and skin.

The white hair and patches of such individuals are formed at birth and do not typically expand after that.

Even if this autosomal dominant disorder poses no severe threats, sufferers are advised to be careful of overexposing themselves to the sun as this condition increases the risk of severe sunburns and other related human skin conditions.


Common signs and symptoms may include:

  • lack of hair growing above the forehead;
  • about 9 out of 10 patients have a white section of hair near their front hairline;
  • unpigmented skin beneath the forelock;
  • hyperpigmentation present within the border of depigmented areas;
  • symmetrical non pigmented patches on the body, face, and extremities;
  • white eyelashes and eyebrows;
  • depigmented macule on the mid-forehead;
  • depigmented patches of skin occurring symmetrically on the sides of the body.


This condition occurs due to an absence of melanocytes (melanin-producing neural-crest-derived cells located in the bottom layer of the skin’s epidermis) in affected hair follicles and skin.

This is caused by mutations of the KIT proto-oncogene, a type 3 transmembrane receptor for the mast cell growth factor. 9 deletions, 14 point mutations, 3 insertions, and 2 nucleotide splice mutations of the KIT gene are considered to be mutations causing this condition.


The only treatment available for this rare autosomal dominant disorder is the transplantation of melanocytes. About 100 cm2 white patches can be treated in one operative session.


It is a skin condition in which patches of skin turn into smooth, white areas with the medical term of macules.

This skin disorder is typically observed on the neck, face, or hands, however, it can also affect any part of the body which has pigmented cells. For instance, sometimes, it may cause loss of color in the eyes or inside the mouth.

Moreover, the hair in affected areas may also turn white. In addition, it can develop at sites of injury, like – scrapes, cuts, and burns.

According to the data, between 0.5 and 2 percent of the world’s population has this skin disorder with fifty percent of all patients receive their first diagnosis before age 20. But, for 95 percent of patients, it has developed by the age of 40.

It is not contagious and is not life-threatening. If an individual has white patches on only one area of the body, this skin disorder may progress faster. However, if the white spots occur symmetrically on more than one part of the body, this autoimmune disorder may progress slowly, with long periods of time when the patches do not change.

The most famous sufferer of this condition was Michael Jackson who was diagnosed with the condition, but more recently model Chantelle Brown-Young on America’s Next Top Model has it, as does Jon Hamm (an actor who is best known for his role as Don Draper on AMC’s “Mad Men”).


Individuals who develop this condition typically first observe spots (depigmentation) or white patches on their skin. The skin remains of normal texture, but a few patients experience itching in areas where spots occur.

The areas most frequently affected by this skin disorder include:

  • wrists;
  • fingers;
  • armpits;
  • the skin around the eyes and mouth;
  • inside the mouth;
  • genitals;
  • groin.


It is an auto-immune disorder that damages pigment-producing cells or melanin, causing smooth, white patches of skin to appear on the body. Melanin (produced by cells called melanocytes) gives color to the skin as well as it protects the skin from the adverse effects of free radicals formed upon UV radiation.

According to research, this autoimmune disease also affects cells of the superficial layer of the skin – Keratinocytes, the predominant cell type in the epidermis which forms a tough protective layer.

It could also have a genetic component due to the fact that it tends to run in families. Moreover, it has a relationship to hyperthyroidism (when the thyroid overproduces hormones), pernicious anemia (a type of vitamin B12 anemia), and Addison’s disease (when the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient steroid hormones).

Some conditions, like – sunburn or exposure to industrial chemicals, can also lead to this skin disorder. In some of the cases, sufferers are at risk of losing pigment after any injury or bruise. There are some cases (very rare) where this autoimmune disease appeared after an individual suffered some mental distress.


Current treatment for this condition attempts to either decrease or increase pigmentation in order to improve the patient’s self-esteem.

More importantly, a patient must protect its skin from the sun and avoid using sunbeds, since severe sunburn are a real risk if you have this skin disorder.

Piebaldism vs Vitiligo – Differences

Both conditions have symptoms involving white patches. However, piebaldism is a rare autosomal dominant disorder, while vitiligo is an autoimmune disease with first signs and symptoms usually appear around age 20.

Images credit – Shutterstock

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