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How to Tell Vitiligo From Fungus

By Darlene Zagata ; Updated July 27, 2017

Vitiligo is a skin disorder that affects 1% of the population. The melanocytes which are the pigmentation cells become impaired or are destroyed. The destruction of these cells results in a loss of pigmentation of the skin. The cause of vitiligo remains unknown. Although there is no cure new treatment options continue to be researched and developed. Fungal infections may also affect the color of the infected areas of skin which may cause confusion regarding whether the skin discoloration is caused by vitiligo or fungus. Follow the steps below to distinguish between vitiligo and fungal skin infections.

  1. Observe the discoloration of the affected areas of skin. Are they lighter or darker than the normal skin? Areas affected by vitiligo are lighter than normal skin and may have a complete loss of pigmentation making them appear white. Areas of skin affected by fungal infections may appear lighter or darker than the normal surrounding skin.

  2. Examine the texture of the affected skin. Vitiligo only affects the color of the skin. The texture of the skin remains the same. It is not affected. Skin affected by a fungal infection may become red and inflammed around the borders. The infected skin may also become thick and flaky.

  3. Notice whether itching of the affected skin occurs. While itching may sometimes occur with vitiligo itching is normally accompanied by other symptoms such as redness and flakiness in a fungal infection.

  4. Observe whether more than one acquainted person has developed a change in skin pigmentation and/or other symptoms. Vitiligo is not contagious therefore it cannot be passed on through the sharing of personal items. Fungal skin infections can occur from contact with infected items or areas such as shower stalls and locker rooms. Athlete's foot is just one of several types of fungal skin infections that can be transmitted in such a way.

  5. Look for signs of scaliness, dry skin, flakiness, irritation and inflammation as well as itching, redness and discoloration when trying to identify a fungal skin infection. A combination of these symptoms will normally be present in a fungal skin infection whereas vitiligo is characterized by the depigmentation and possible itching.

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