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Last Updated on January 10, 2024


Vitiligo, a skin disorder that leads to the depigmentation of patches on the skin, is a condition that has intrigued medical professionals and researchers alike for decades. However, within the vitiligo realm exist two distinctive presentations: segmented vitiligo and non-segmental vitiligo. This blog aims to unravel the intricacies of these manifestations, exploring their clinical differences, underlying mechanisms, and profound impact on individuals who bear this unique and often misunderstood skin condition.

Understanding Vitiligo

Understanding the basic principles of vitiligo is essential before exploring the segmented and non-segmental forms. White patches appear on the skin due to melanocytes and pigment-producing cells dying off in vitiligo. However, each person will have a different degree and distribution of these depigmented regions, which can appear anywhere on the body.

Non-segmental Vitiligo

Non-segmented vitiligo, or generalized or bilateral vitiligo, is the more common of the two presentations. In this form, depigmentation typically occurs on both sides of the body in a symmetrical pattern. Moreover, the patches may start small and gradually enlarge, merging with neighboring areas over time. However, non-segmented vitiligo often progresses slowly and can affect any body part, including the face, hands, and extremities.

Segmental Vitiligo

Segmented vitiligo, on the other hand, takes on a more localized and asymmetrical pattern. This form is characterized by depigmented patches that develop on one side of the body and are limited to a specific dermatome or segment of the skin. Unlike non-segmental vitiligo, which tends to progress slowly, segmented vitiligo often stabilizes after a certain point, and the affected areas may not spread further. Nevertheless, the precise reasons behind the asymmetrical distribution in segmented vitiligo remain a subject of ongoing research.

Clinical Differences In Non-segmental Vitiligo

Symmetry and Gradual Progression

Non-segmental vitiligo is marked by its symmetrical distribution on both body sides. However, the patches often start small and gradually expand, forming a symphony of depigmentation that can cover extensive areas. Additionally, this widespread involvement distinguishes non-segmented vitiligo as a comprehensive canvas of pigment loss.

A Preference for Specific Areas

While non-segmental vitiligo can affect any body part, certain areas are more commonly involved. These include the face, hands, feet, elbows, knees, and regions around body orifices. However, the prominence of these areas contributes to the noticeable impact on the individual’s appearance, potentially influencing their psychological well-being.

Association with Autoimmune Conditions

Non-segmental vitiligo is frequently associated with autoimmune disorders, where the immune system mistakenly targets and destroys melanocytes. Moreover, conditions such as thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and pernicious anemia are more commonly observed in individuals with non-segmented vitiligo.

Clinical Differences In Segmented Vitiligo

Localized and Asymmetrical Patterning

Segmented vitiligo, in contrast, unfolds as an artistic display of asymmetry. Depigmented patches appear on one side of the body, often following specific dermatomes. However, this localized presentation sets segmented vitiligo apart, creating a distinctive pattern contrasting with its counterpart’s bilateral and symmetrical nature.

Stabilization and Limited Progression

One notable characteristic of segmented vitiligo is its tendency to stabilize after a certain period. Unlike non-segmental vitiligo, which may continue to spread over time, segmented vitiligo often reaches a point of stability, and the affected areas may not progress further. However, this phenomenon adds a layer of unpredictability to the course of the condition.

Potential Neurogenic Involvement

Researchers have explored the potential role of neurogenic factors in the development of segmented vitiligo. Nonetheless, the hypothesis suggests that abnormalities in the nervous system, such as nerve damage or neural stress, may contribute to the general loss of pigmentation seen in segmented vitiligo. However, this area of investigation is still evolving.

Non-segmental Vitiligo: The Immunological Array

Autoimmune Component

The prevailing theory behind non-segmented vitiligo involves autoimmune processes. However, in individuals with non-segmental vitiligo, the immune system mistakenly targets melanocytes as foreign invaders, destroying them. Moreover, this autoimmune attack results in depigmentation in widespread skin areas.

Genetic Predisposition

Genetic factors play a significant role in the susceptibility to non-segmented vitiligo. Individuals with a family history of vitiligo or autoimmune disorders are at a higher risk of developing non-segmented vitiligo. Additionally, specific genes causing immune regulation and melanocyte function are under scrutiny in ongoing research.

Environmental Triggers

Environmental factors, such as exposure to certain chemicals, trauma to the skin, or viral infections, may trigger non-segmented vitiligo in genetically predisposed individuals. These factors can initiate or exacerbate the autoimmune response, leading to depigmentation.

Segmented Vitiligo: The Enigma of Neurogenic Influences

Nervous System Involvement

Segmented vitiligo introduces an intriguing dimension involving the nervous system. Research suggests that neurogenic factors like nerve damage or stress may contribute to the local depigmentation in segmented vitiligo. The intricate interplay between the nervous system and melanocytes in segmented vitiligo is an active area of exploration.

Possible Neural Stress

Some studies propose that stress on the nerves supplying a specific dermatome could trigger the development of segmented vitiligo in susceptible individuals. This neural stress hypothesis is still in the early stages of investigation, and more research is needed to elucidate the precise mechanisms involved.

Combination of Factors

Unlike non-segmented vitiligo, which predominantly implicates autoimmune processes, segmental vitiligo may involve a combination of genetic predisposition, neural stress, and potential environmental factors. Understanding the many faces of interactions remains challenging, but ongoing research endeavors aim to illuminate the intricate puzzle of segmented vitiligo.

Non-segmental Vitiligo: The Visible Tapestry

Psychological Implications

Nonsegmented vitiligo’s widespread and often visible nature can have profound psychological implications for individuals with this condition. The condition may influence self-esteem, body image, and interpersonal relationships. Coping with the societal perception of visible depigmentation becomes integral to the individual’s journey.

Challenges in Concealment

Managing and concealing depigmented areas in non-segmental vitiligo can pose practical challenges. Makeup, clothing choices, and other camouflage techniques may be employed to minimize the visual impact. Still, these solutions often require time and effort, adding complexity to daily life.

Association with Other Autoimmune Conditions

Individuals with non-segmental vitiligo often face the challenge of managing associated autoimmune conditions. Regular medical monitoring, medication management, and potential lifestyle adjustments become part of the holistic approach to addressing the complex health landscape associated with non-segmented vitiligo.

Segmented Vitiligo: The Patchwork of Unpredictability

Localized Impact

Segmented vitiligo, with its asymmetrical distribution, may have a localized impact on specific body areas. While this localized nature may reduce the psychological burden in some cases, the condition’s unpredictability, including its stabilization and limited progression, introduces a unique set of challenges.

Embracing the Unpredictable Course

Individuals with segmented vitiligo navigate the journey of unpredictability, as the condition may stabilize without further progression. This unpredictability can influence decisions regarding treatment options and the individual’s approach to managing the disease over time.

Potential Emotional Resilience

Some individuals with segmented vitiligo may develop a sense of emotional resilience, embracing the uniqueness of their skin’s patchwork. The localized nature of the depigmentation, combined with the potential for stabilization, may contribute to a different psychological experience compared to non-segmental vitiligo.

Non-segmental Vitiligo: A Comprehensive Palette

Topical Corticosteroids

Topical corticosteroids often reduce inflammation and depigmented areas in non-segmented vitiligo. These medications work by suppressing the immune response and promoting melanocyte function.


Phototherapy, using ultraviolet (UV) light, is a standard treatment modality for non-segmental vitiligo. Narrowband UVB or psoralen plus UVA (PUVA) therapy can stimulate repigmentation in affected areas.

Immunomodulatory Medications

In cases where the autoimmune component is prominent, immunomodulatory medications may be prescribed. These medications, such as calcineurin inhibitors, modulate the immune response to prevent further melanocyte damage.


In cases where vitiligo is widespread and difficult to treat, some individuals may opt for depigmentation. This process involves using topical agents to lighten the remaining pigmented skin, achieving a more uniform appearance.

Segmented Vitiligo: Targeted Approaches

Topical Treatments

Topical corticosteroids and calcineurin inhibitors may be used in segmented vitiligo, although their efficacy may vary. The localized nature of the condition may make these treatments more manageable and targeted.

Excimer Laser

Excimer laser therapy, which delivers UVB light to specific areas of the skin, can effectively stimulate repigmentation in localized vitiligo. This targeted approach minimizes exposure to unaffected areas.

Camouflage Techniques

For individuals with stable segmented vitiligo, camouflage techniques, such as makeup or self-tanning, may provide a practical and aesthetic solution to blend depigmented areas with the surrounding skin.

Observation and Support

Segmented vitiligo often stabilizes without further progression so a watch-and-wait approach may be adopted. Supportive measures, including counseling and education about the condition’s unpredictable course, are integral to the management of segmented vitiligo.


In the kaleidoscope of vitiligo, the distinction between segmented and non-segmental variants adds complexity to our understanding of this enigmatic skin condition. Non-segmented vitiligo unfolds as a comprehensive and symmetrical canvas, often associated with autoimmune processes and widespread depigmentation. On the other hand, segmented vitiligo presents an asymmetrical and localized pattern, with potential neurogenic influences contributing to its unique features.

As we unravel the underlying mechanisms, clinical differences, and impact on individuals, it becomes evident that vitiligo is not a one-size-fits-all condition. Instead, it is a dynamic interplay of genetic predisposition, immune responses, and potential neural factors. The psychological and emotional experiences of individuals with vitiligo are equally diverse, shaped by their unique manifestations’ extent, pattern, and progression.

In the realm of treatment, a tailored and holistic approach is essential. From topical corticosteroids to excimer laser therapy, each modality must be carefully considered based on the type and extent of vitiligo and the individual’s preferences and lifestyle.

As we continue to explore the nuances of vitiligo, our understanding of this complex condition will undoubtedly deepen. Researchers and healthcare professionals are actively unraveling the mysteries of vitiligo, seeking novel therapeutic targets and personalized approaches to address the diverse needs of those affected by this captivating and challenging skin disorder.


MetroBoston Clinical Partners is a well established and experienced research center in the greater Boston area. Under the leadership of qualified physicians and medical professionals, we coordinate a range of clinical research trials in Dermatology and Internal Medicine.

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