Post-Traumatic Stress in Patients With Vitiligo

sad girl with vitiligo bowing her head
sad girl with vitiligo bowing her head
The prevalence, severity, and risk factors of post-traumatic stress in patients with vitiligo is assessed.

Vitiligo-related post-traumatic stress (PTS) is prevalent in patients with vitiligo and is associated with psychological distress and impairment, according to findings from a study published in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology.

A retrospective case-control study was performed from January 2021 to April 2021. The exclusion criteria included, being under 18 years of age or above 80, being an unwilling participant, inability to understand the questions, and having suffered a major traumatic event in their life. Based on their PTD or PTSD status, the included patients were split into a case group and a control group. The self-reported PTSD Checklist-Civilian Version (PCL-C) was used to evaluate PTS/PTSD symptoms. The report contains 17 questions which are then scored. A total score greater than 37 indicated PTS, while a total score greater or equal to 50 indicates PTSD. The diagnostic symptoms were then defined based on the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and a diagnosis of PTSD also required an interview with a senior psychiatrist.

In total, 337 patients with vitiligo were included in this study (median age ±SD 30.0±11.4 years; 59.9% women). The researchers found that 30.3% of patients with vitiligo participating in the study were diagnosed with PTS and 12.5% were shown to have PTSD. Only 5.9% of PTS patients and 11.9% of PTSD patients ever pursued any form of psychological treatment.

Compared with  patients without PTS or PTSD, patients with either diagnosis had a lower level of education, a higher incidence of vitiligo on the neck and face, vitiligo in the hands, feet, and limbs, and had significantly different invasive treatments for vitiligo, it was noted.

The most prevalent PTS symptoms found in this sample of vitiligo patients was sleep disturbance, which was observed in 48.79% of patients. Other symptoms were emotionally triggered (46.28%), followed by intrusive thoughts (42.01%), situational avoidance (34.19%), and irritability (29.92%).

Limitations of this study include the small sample size.

Researchers concluded that, “The figures highlight the urgent need to assess PTS more comprehensively and offer care for vitiligo patients affected by PTS and PTSD.”


Liu J, Tan Y, Chen T, Liu W, Qian Y, Ma D. Post-traumatic stress in vitiligo patients: A neglected but real-existing psychological impairment. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. March 5, 2022. doi:10.2147/CCID.S350000