What is vitiligo? Vitiligo is a chronic (long-lasting) disorder that causes areas of skin to lose color. When skin cells that make color are attacked and destroyed, the skin turns a milky-white color. No one knows what causes vitiligo, but it may be an autoimmune disease. In people with autoimmune diseases, the immune cells attack the body’s own healthy tissues by mistake, instead of viruses or bacteria. A person with vitiligo sometimes may have family members who also have the disease. There is no cure for vitiligo, but treatment may help skin tone appear more even.