Leucoderma – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


We don’t always have control over the way our skin reacts to different things. While we would all love to know exactly what our future entails, there are certain skin conditions that are quite out of our own hands. Leucoderma, also known as Vitiligo, is one such skin condition.

What is leucoderma?

This is a skin disease where the melanin-producing cells progressively face destruction. Unfortunately, this leads to a lack of pigmentation on patches of the skin anywhere on the body. This is one of the extreme forms of uneven pigmentation wherein melanocytes are targeted and killed. Melanocytes are specialised skin cells in the epidermis and produce the protective pigment that we call melanin.

One of the reasons why this condition has caused a stir is the psychological and mental stress that is caused by it. However, it is not a fatal condition or damaging to your health.

What causes leucoderma?

Leucoderma is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system mistakenly attacks melanocyte cells considering them to be harmful to the body. This is one of the leading causes of this skin condition. Leucoderma is also known as Vitiligo.

  • Sometimes, our genes are to blame, since leucoderma is a condition that can be passed down in a family. Hence chances of it being hereditary are high.
  • And certain other autoimmune diseases like hyperthyroidism have been known to increase the possible occurrence of vitiligo.
  • On the other hand, people working in industries with high exposure to chemicals like phenol and those getting exposed to extreme sunlight may find that these are triggers to the condition as well.

What are the symptoms of leukoderma?

Looking out for signs of leucoderma is always advised, especially if it is known to run through your family. It is often easily identifiable, and when addressed at a very early stage, the chances of containing it to a great degree are quite high. 

  • The first and foremost signs of leucoderma or vitiligo are small white or lighter patches of skin that may appear anywhere on the body. The particular zones, which usually fall prey to this are folds in the skin such as elbows, fingers, hands, and armpits. Or, if some part of the skin had previously been subject to sun damage or exposure to harmful substances, they become more vulnerable to the condition.
  • The appearance of grey hair takes an early toll when you are vulnerable to leucoderma, so keeping an eye out for that is a safe way to monitor any onslaught of the condition.

Noticing any one of these symptoms should have you looking for dermatologists near you. This is because only an expert in the field can conduct an early diagnosis, which may involve blood tests and even biopsies of the affected region.

How to treat leukoderma?

Although the first thing patients are constantly warned of when it comes to vitiligo is its permanence, great strides have been made in the different forms of treatments that may help contain it and even reduce white patches from standing out on the skin.

The majority of these treatments have come about because of the psychological trauma and stress that patients undergo when having to live everyday life, with as obvious a skin condition as vitiligo.

1. Phototherapy

Amongst the many, one of the primary treatments that experts turn to is phototherapy and the application of sunscreen. Although it does not entirely re-pigment the skin, exposure to ultraviolet B or UV-A rays has been known to help with leucoderma. It takes time for the result to show over a period of 6 to 12 months depending on how far along the condition is.

2. Topical creams

A topical form of treatment includes the use of corticosteroids and other ointments, which either alter the structure of the skin or simply help camouflage the skin on the surface. This last resort may be along the lines of cosmetic products. These tend to have faster results, which patients look for at times.

3. Depigmentation treatments

For forms of the conditions which have progressed too far, depigmentation treatments may be more helpful. This is achieved usually with a combination of strong topical creams with ingredients like hydroquinone and mequinol.

4. Prescription medication

In extreme cases, dermatologists even recommend drugs that influence the immune system. Examples of these include a substance called “calcineurin inhibitors”, but these are far more controversial and can only be administered post consultation with dermatologists.

Regardless of the treatment taken, leucoderma is a permanent skin condition that can only be restricted to a certain degree. However, it is not worth the psychological stress that patients often go through. Always put your mental health first.

The silver lining

There is an increasing number of organisations and campaigns that help people with this condition cope with it and celebrate it as a unique characteristic and accept it as a part of you. So take that visit to a dermatologist to address your skin condition, but never feel like it makes you any lesser because of it.


1. Is leucoderma contagious?

The fear of the unknown sometimes leads people to make wild assumptions. One such assumption people have been known to make about vitiligo is that it could be contagious.

This is entirely false.

2. How does leukoderma spread?

One of the drawbacks of dealing with this skin condition is that there is no particular way to predict its spreading. The degree of spreading appears to differ from person to person. Although, there have been recent assessments that show a slight correlation between increased spreading and physical or emotional stress.

3. How do you choose the proper treatment method?

Choosing a suitable treatment method for you depends on certain factors; the number of patches that currently exist, how far along they are in severity, and your own preference of method are some of them.

4. What is the difference between leucoderma and vitiligo?

There is no difference between the two as they are different names of the same skin condition. It is also spelt as leukoderma.

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Picture of Dr Jisha Gomez

Dr Jisha Gomez

She is a highly skilled dermatology physician with strong expertise in improving skin & hair health through the development of corrective treatment combinations. She completed her Post-graduate Diploma in Dermatology from Cardiff, UK & Fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine (FAM) from the Institute of Laser and Aesthetic Medicine, Delhi with over 5+ years experience treating skin patients. She has worked in Government hospitals in Trivandrum and Bangalore. She is actively involved in creating awareness for healthy skin, breaking the social stigma based on skin colour & stopping steroid abuse in our country.