Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyVitiligoTeam
In partnership with the Global Vitiligo Foundation ?

Vitiligo and Vision Loss: What’s the Connection?

Updated on May 16, 2022

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that affects the body’s pigmentation, leading to white patches of skin or hair — and more rarely, light eye color. In addition to altering physical appearance, however, vitiligo may also increase the risk of developing eye problems.

“My immune system once attacked my right eye. It was very painful and nearly blinded me,” shared a MyVitiligoTeam member. Other members developed thyroid diseases such as Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or hypothyroidism after living with vitiligo for years. These conditions, if left untreated, can lead to serious eye complications including eye damage or vision loss in some people.

Here’s what to know about the link between vitiligo and vision loss and strategies to prevent or manage eye symptoms associated with vitiligo.

How Can Vitiligo Affect Vision?

Vitiligo is a skin condition that disrupts the normal functioning of melanocytes ― the cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for color in the eyes, skin, and hair. Improper melanocyte functioning most likely due to autoimmune destruction causes depigmentation (white patches).

Melanocytes are found not only in the skin, hair, and irises (the colored part of the eye) but also within the middle region of the eye (called the uvea) and the retinas (the part of the eye that responds to light). There are two types of pigment cells found in the eye that help with light absorption, provide nutrients to the eyes, protect the eyes from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and break down toxins. When melanocytes are damaged or destroyed in the uvea and other parts of the eye, vitiligo may lead to vision changes or vision loss.

Experts have found that melanocyte abnormalities in the eyes play a critical role in the development of complications or severe eye diseases, including:

  • Uveitis (inflammation of the uvea)
  • Retinitis (inflammation of the retina)
  • Iritis (inflammation of the iris)
  • Nyctalopia (night blindness)
  • Retinal or macular degeneration
  • Glaucoma (gradual loss of sight)
  • Loss of vision

Loss of vision and retinal (or macular) degeneration, in particular, are symptoms related to very rare autoimmune disorders that are linked with vitiligo, called Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome and Alezzandrini's syndrome. Most people diagnosed with vitiligo will never develop these syndromes.

The most commonly reported eye complication is uveitis, affecting between 5 percent and 19 percent of people living with vitiligo. Uveitis may cause blurred or decreased vision and may lead to vision loss if it’s not properly treated.

In general, vision problems in vitiligo may be uncommon. The most common ocular symptoms are eye redness, eye pain, sensitivity to light, and dry eyes or changes in tear production.

Management and Prevention of Eye Problems in Vitiligo

Speak with your dermatologist, ophthalmologist, or primary care doctor if you experience changes in your eyes or vision, so that you can begin evaluation and treatment promptly.

Treatments for vitiligo typically include topical or oral medications, UV phototherapy, and systemic immune suppressants. It is also important to protect the skin surrounding your eyes from sun damage by applying sunscreen daily.

If you have vitiligo, make sure to have regular eye exams so that your doctors can detect any changes to your vision and monitor your overall eye health.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyVitiligoTeam is the social network for people with vitiligo. On MyVitiligoTeam, more than 9,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with vitiligo.

Has vitiligo affected your vision? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyVitiligoTeam.

In partnership with the Global Vitiligo Foundation, which strives to improve the quality of life for individuals with vitiligo through education, research, clinical care, and community support.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Amit G. Pandya, M.D., President of the Global Vitiligo Foundation is a dermatologist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Mountain View, California. Learn more about him here.
Imee Williams is a freelance writer and Fulbright scholar, with a B.S. in neuroscience from Washington State University. Learn more about her here.

Related articles

People living with vitiligo have a higher risk of developing lupus than individuals in the...

Vitiligo and Lupus: What’s the Connection?

People living with vitiligo have a higher risk of developing lupus than individuals in the...
Vitiligo is a skin condition associated with autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s...

Vitiligo and Thyroid Autoimmunity: What’s the Connection?

Vitiligo is a skin condition associated with autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s...
Tinea versicolor, also known as pityriasis versicolor, is a fungal infection that affects the top...

Tinea Versicolor vs. Vitiligo: What’s the Difference?

Tinea versicolor, also known as pityriasis versicolor, is a fungal infection that affects the top...
Both albinism and vitiligo are skin conditions affecting the pigment (color) of the body. The...

Albinism vs. Vitiligo: What’s the Difference?

Both albinism and vitiligo are skin conditions affecting the pigment (color) of the body. The...
Many people with vitiligo, including myself, are concerned they may be at higher risk of...

Are People With Vitiligo at Higher Risk for Skin Cancer? An Interview with Dr. Michelle Rodrigues

Many people with vitiligo, including myself, are concerned they may be at higher risk of...
Vitiligo is a skin condition that leaves patches of skin without any pigmentation. Vitiligo is...

We Asked a Doctor: Can Vitiligo Impact Vision, Hearing, and Eye Color?

Vitiligo is a skin condition that leaves patches of skin without any pigmentation. Vitiligo is...

Recent articles

Watch World Vitiligo Day 2022 Coverage!Since its founding in 2011, World Vitiligo Day has become...

World Vitiligo Day-USA 2022

Watch World Vitiligo Day 2022 Coverage!Since its founding in 2011, World Vitiligo Day has become...
If you’re living with vitiligo, you’re already aware of the impact the condition can have on your...

5 Ways To Get Involved With Vitiligo Awareness

If you’re living with vitiligo, you’re already aware of the impact the condition can have on your...
Skin injuries like sunburn or cuts can trigger vitiligo in individuals who are genetically...

Can Sunburn and Skin Injuries Trigger Vitiligo?

Skin injuries like sunburn or cuts can trigger vitiligo in individuals who are genetically...
An estimated 1 million to 2 million people in the U.S. live with vitiligo — more than half of...

Vitiligo in Children: What You Need To Know

An estimated 1 million to 2 million people in the U.S. live with vitiligo — more than half of...
Vitiligo is an autoimmune skin condition in which smooth white patches (called macules) appear on...

Which Chemicals Can Trigger or Worsen Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is an autoimmune skin condition in which smooth white patches (called macules) appear on...
Psychological stress may contribute to the development of vitiligo. Vitiligo is a skin condition...

Does Stress or Emotional Trauma Cause Vitiligo To Develop?

Psychological stress may contribute to the development of vitiligo. Vitiligo is a skin condition...
MyVitiligoTeam My vitiligo Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close