Leucism vs Vitiligo: Know the Differences

Difference between Leucism vs Vitiligo:Leucism and Vitiligo are two different conditions which involve the loss of pigmentation, albeit with different causes and reasons. Leucism is a genetic anomaly seen in various animals, that results in white patches due to a reduction in pigment-producing cells, leaving unaffected eyes and soft tissues. On the other hand Vitiligo, mainly affects humans and arises from an autoimmune process which attacks melanocytes, leading to depigmented skin patches. 

Difference between Leucism and Vitiligo

Leucism is found in animals and causes partial loss of pigmentation, while Vitiligo in humans is caused by an autoimmune attack on melanocytes which leads to depigmented patches. The table below provides the differences between Leucism and Vitiligo.





Partial loss of pigmentation in the skin, hair, feathers, or scales resulting in white patches

Depigmentation disorder causing loss of skin colour in blotches


A genetic mutation affecting pigment cells

Autoimmune disorder or genetic predisposition affecting melanocytes


White patches are symmetrical or localized

Depigmented patches can occur anywhere, often irregular in shape


Present at birth or appears early in life

Can develop at any age, often after puberty

Associated Risks

Generally, no associated health risks

May be associated with autoimmune conditions or other health issues


No specific treatment; cosmetic concern

Treatment may include topical steroids, UV therapy, or surgical options

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What is Leucism?

Leucism is a genetic condition in animals that can be defined by partial loss of pigmentation in the skin, hair, feathers, scales, or other parts of the body. Animals with Leucism show symptoms of pigment, resulting in a paler or diluted appearance compared to their normal colouration.

Causes of Leucism

  • Genetic Mutations: Leucism is mainly caused by genetic mutations that affect the production or distribution of melanin in the body. These mutations can occur instinctively or be genetically inherited.
  • Incomplete Dominance: Leucism can be caused by incomplete dominance, where the gene responsible for pigmentation is not fully expressed, leading to reduced pigmentation in affected individuals.
  • Environmental Factors: While genetic mutations are the main cause, environmental factors may also play a role in the development of Leucism. Exposure to particular chemicals during critical stages of development may lead to disruption of melanin production or distribution.
  • Selective Breeding: In some cases, humans have selectively bred animals to show certain traits, including those associated with Leucism. Breeding programs whose priority is to reduce pigmentation contribute to Leucism.

Symptoms of Leucism

  • Reduced Pigmentation: The most noticeable symptom of Leucism is a reduction or absence of pigmentation in the affected areas of the animal's body. This can later appear as white, pale, or patchy colouration when compared to the normal colouration of the species.
  • White or Light-Colored Coat or Plumage: In mammals, birds, and reptiles, Leucism often results in a white or light-coloured coat, feathers, or scales. The affected areas may appear to look lighter than usual and also lack the usual pigmentations such as brown, black, or red.
  • Normal Eye Color: Animals with Leucism have normal eye colouration. This means that their eyes most likely appear normal or retain their typical colouration, such as brown, blue, or black.
  • Pink or Light-Colored Skin: Sometimes, the skin or exposed areas of the animal's body may also lack pigment, resulting in pink or light-coloured skin, this usually happens when the colour of the animal is light. 

What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a long-term skin condition characterized by patches of the skin losing their pigment. This results in the development of white or depigmented patches on the skin. It can affect any part of the body but commonly occurs in areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, hands, and arms. Vitiligo occurs when melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin, which gives the skin its colour, are destroyed. The exact cause of this destruction is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, autoimmune, and environmental factors.

Causes of Vitiligo

  • Autoimmune Disorder: One prevalent theory is that Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition, where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) in the skin
  • Genetic Factors: There appears to be a genetic predisposition to Vitiligo, as it often runs in families. Research has identified certain gene variations that may increase the susceptibility to Vitiligo, although the inheritance pattern is complex and not fully understood.
  • Oxidative Stress: Oxidative stress, caused by an imbalance between reactive oxygen species and antioxidants in the body, has been proposed as a contributing factor to Vitiligo. It is thought that oxidative stress may trigger the destruction of melanocytes.
  • Neurogenic Factors: Some studies suggest that neurogenic factors, such as nerve damage or dysfunction, may play a role in the development of Vitiligo. This is supported by the observation that Vitiligo patches often occur in areas with high nerve density.

Symptoms of Vitiligo

  • Depigmented Patches: The hallmark symptom of Vitiligo is the appearance of white or light-coloured patches on the skin. These patches may vary in size and shape and can occur anywhere on the body, but they commonly affect areas that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, hands, arms, feet, and genital area.
  • Symmetrical Distribution: In many cases, Vitiligo patches appear symmetrically on both sides of the body, although this is not always the case.
  • Border Irregularity: The borders of Vitiligo patches may be well-defined or irregular, with a gradual transition between the depigmented skin and the surrounding normal skin.
  • Premature Graying of Hair: People with Vitiligo may experience premature greying or loss of pigment in the hair on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hair.
  • Changes in Color of Mucous Membranes: In some cases, Vitiligo can also affect the mucous membranes, leading to depigmentation of the tissues inside the mouth, nose, and eyes.

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Similarities between Leucism and Vitiligo

  • Pigmentation Alteration: Both Leucism and Vitiligo result in a loss or reduction of pigmentation in affected areas of the body. This can manifest as white or light-coloured patches of skin, hair, feathers, or scales, surrounded by normally pigmented areas.
  • Non-Life-Threatening: Neither Leucism nor Vitiligo typically poses a direct threat to the overall health or survival of the affected individual. While the altered appearance may have social or behavioural implications, the conditions themselves are not inherently harmful.
  • Normal Eye Color: Unlike albinism, where the lack of pigment extends to the eyes, both Leucism and Vitiligo typically spare the eyes, allowing them to retain their normal colouration. This means that individuals with either condition often have eyes of normal colour.

While both Leucism and Vitiligo involve a loss of pigment, they differ in their causes, appearance, occurrence, and treatment. Leucism is a genetic condition resulting in partial loss of pigmentation in animals, while Vitiligo is a skin disorder characterized by the autoimmune destruction of melanocytes in humans.

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What is Leucism?

Leucism is a genetic condition that affects the pigmentation of an animal's skin, hair, feathers, or scales. It results in reduced pigmentation or complete absence of pigment in affected areas, leading to white or light-coloured patches on the body.

What causes Leucism?

Leucism is primarily caused by genetic mutations that affect the production or distribution of melanin, the pigment responsible for determining colouration in animals. These mutations can occur spontaneously or be inherited from parents who carry the gene.

Is Leucism harmful to animals?

Generally, Leucism itself is not harmful to animals and does not affect their overall health or lifespan. However, the altered appearance may make them more conspicuous to predators or humans, potentially impacting their survival in the wild.

What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is defined as a depigmentation disorder which is characterised by the loss of skin colour in blotches. It occurs when melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin, are destroyed or stop functioning.

What causes Vitiligo?

The correct cause of Vitiligo is yet to be known but does involve a combination of genetic predisposition and autoimmune factors. Environmental triggers or stress may also play a role in some cases.

How do Leucism and Vitiligo differ?

Leucism is a genetic condition resulting in symmetrical white patches, often present from birth or may even appear later in life. On the other hand, Vitiligo is a depigmentation disorder that can occur at any age and can affect any part of the body, with irregularly shaped patches of depigmented skin.