Vitiligo is more than skin deep: a survey of members of the Vitiligo Society

Clin Exp Dermatol. 2010 Oct;35(7):736-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2230.2009.03765.x.


Background: Vitiligo is a common, largely acquired skin disease of unknown aetiology, which causes a variable amount of skin and hair depigmentation in affected people. It affects over half a million people in the UK alone, and a massive 50 million people worldwide.

Aim: To quantify the psychosocial burden of vitiligo in the UK, by estimating its effect on daily life.

Methods: All members (n = 1790) of the Vitiligo Society, a UK national patient support group, were sent a questionnaire. Survey questions included demographics, disease-related characteristics, effect of vitiligo on daily life, and psychosocial support measures for patients with vitiligo. Results. In total, 520 (29% of members) responded, of which 354 (68%) were women. Vitiligo affected the hands in 414 (80%) and the face in 394 (76%) of the respondents. Over half (56.6%) of respondents indicated that vitiligo moderately or severely affects their quality of life (QOL). Finding a cure or effective lasting treatment was the main priority for most affected respondents. Most respondents obtain information about their disease from nonmedical sources: 431 (83%) from the Vitiligo Society and 129 (25%) from the internet, compared with 61 (12.5%) from dermatologists.

Conclusion: Vitiligo is a skin condition that moderately or severely affects the QOL of most patients. Although most patients look for a cure or long-lasting treatment, only 12.5% of respondents to our survey had obtained information from a dermatologist. Vitiligo is a common condition that affects more than the skin, and has profound psychosocial implications for affected patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life*
  • Self Concept
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Vitiligo / epidemiology
  • Vitiligo / pathology
  • Vitiligo / psychology*
  • Vitiligo / rehabilitation
  • Young Adult