Vitiligo with Associated Loss of Tattoo Pigments

Case Report

Austin J Dermatolog. 2016; 3(3): 1055.

Vitiligo with Associated Loss of Tattoo Pigments

Oripelaye MM*, Olanrewaju FO, Onayemi O and Olasode OA

Department of Dermatology, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospitals Complex, Nigeria

*Corresponding author: Oripelaye MM, Department of Dermatology, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospitals Complex, Ile-Ife, Osun state, Nigeria

Received: April 25, 2016; Accepted: June 22, 2016; Published: June 24, 2016


Vitiligo is a common depigmentary skin disorder associated with loss of melanocyte. Since the cause of melanocyte loss is not known, a number of theories such as autoimmune theory, the self-destruct hypothesis and neural hypothesis have been advanced as probable mechanism underlying the melanocyte loss. In this report, we present a ninety three year old woman with observed loss of tattoo pigment on the depigmenting lesions of vitiligo. This observation prompted our suspicion of shared basis for the loss of melanocyte and loss of tattoo pigments.

Keywords: Vitiligo; Tattoo; Melanocyte


SV: Segmental Vitiligo; NSV: Non-Segmental Vitiligo; MIF: Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor


Vitiligo is a common acquired depigmentary disorder occurring in 0.4-2.8% of the population [1-3], familial clustering of vitiligo are also commonly reported [4]. It exert a significant negative impact on the quality of life of patients presenting with the disease and even worse in patient with black skin where the contrast is more conspicuous [5].

Various classifications have been described for vitiligo. However, the two main major subtypes are Segmental Vitiligo (SV) and Non- Segmental Vitiligo (NSV). The lesions of vitiligo are characterized by absence of melanocyte. The reason for the loss of melanocyte is not clearly understood however, a number of theories have been postulated to explain the loss of melanocyte although none has been able to explain it satisfactory.

Among the theories postulated to explain the loss of melanocyte are autoimmune theory [6,7], the self-destruct hypothesis [8,9] and neural hypothesis [10]. Other mechanism proposed for loss of melanocyte includes defect in structure and function of endoplasmic reticulum of the melanocyte [11] and primary disturbance of T-lymphocyte [12].

In addition to the above theories, other theories attempting to clarify our understanding of the pathogenesis of vitiligo includes defective melanogenesis with subsequent disappearance of melanocyte, or disappearance of melanocyte due to defective adhesion [13]. The role of Liver X Receptor has been suggested by the finding of increased expression of these receptors on perilesional melanocytes. The increased Liver X Receptor gene expression has been linked to increased susceptibility to vitiligo [14]. The reduced level of antioxidant such as catalase found in patients with vitiligo compared to control depicts the importance of antioxidant in the pathogenesis of vitiligo [15,16].

Since none of the theories standing alone could satisfactorily explain the pathogenesis of vitiligo, Yvon Ganithier et al. have suggested a model integrating all the theories vitiligo [17].

As the cause of vitiligo still remain largely unknown we decided to present a case of vitiligo in which there was loss of tattoo pigment at site of vitiligo lesion.

Case Presentation

We present a ninety three year old African woman who presented to our dermatological clinic with widespread progressively depigmenting skin lesion of ten years duration. The lesion has been increasing progressively from the time it was first noticed ten years ago to its present size involving the shin, arm, forearm, hands, neck and the ear.

There was no associated family history of vitiligo. She is not diabetic, and has no history suggestive of thyroid disease or any other endocrine disease. There is no known precipitant and the patient and family members have been extremely worried by the embarrassment the skin disease has caused them.

She had a cosmetic tattoo about seventy years ago when she was in her twenties and the areas of the skin with the tattoo were the forearm and hands.

The review of other systems was essentially normal. Examination of the skin reveals depigmented patches on the shins, feet, forearms, hands, ear and the chest. Greenish tattoo was also seen on both forearms and dorsum of the hand (Figure 1 & 2).