Maybe you’ve struggled with your vitiligo for years, or maybe you’re just beginning to see signs of this skin condition. Either way, if you’re feeling self conscious about your skin and it’s affecting your quality of life, it’s time to look into the vitiligo treatment options offered today.
Vitiligo is a skin condition affecting pigmentation. People with vitiligo lose their natural pigmentation in various spots on the body, which causes white patches of skin. This skin is not dry or flaky since vitiligo doesn’t affect the top layer of skin and discoloration comes from the deeper layers of the epidermis.
These white patches can occur anywhere on the body, including the face, hands, shoulders and torso, genitals, inside of the mouth, or even the hair. The condition is not contagious or life-threatening, but may be bothersome and can impact self-esteem. It typically appears before the age of 30.
Vitiligo can affect anyone, regardless of skin type or tone. But it tends to be especially noticeable on darker skin. Vitiligo symptoms include patchy spots of lighter skin color, which typically appear first around body openings. This loss of color can also occur in the mucous membranes -- like the tissues lining the inside of the mouth. People with vitiligo may notice premature graying of the hair, eyelashes, or eyebrows.
Most people are confused about vitiligo’s causes and without seeing a dermatologist, they might misdiagnose themselves. Vitiligo is caused when cells producing melanin -- called melanocytes -- stop functioning optimally. Melanin is what gives skin and hair its color, so when these cells stop working or die, pigmentation is lost. The white patches are simply a lack of pigmentation.
Universal vitiligo affects the entire surface of the skin, or close to it, while generalized vitiligo affects most but not all areas of the body -- usually symmetrically. Segmental vitiligo typically shows up for a couple of years at most and affects only one side of the body. Acrofacial vitiligo appears on the hands and mouth, while localized (or focal) vitiligo shows up in small patches on very few parts of the body.
The first step in treating vitiligo is to go to a dermatologist and get a skin examination in order to be properly diagnosed. This process might include blue light examination or a biopsy if necessary. Once it’s determined what type of vitiligo you have, the doctor can discuss which vitiligo treatment options would be best for you.
While vitiligo can’t be cured, vitiligo symptoms can be treated with prescription creams or injections with corticosteroid ingredients to combat inflammation. Medications like pimecrolimus or tacrolimus may be prescribed.
Phototherapy is a common vitiligo treatment. Controlled exposure to narrow band ultraviolet B (UVB) light can stop or slow the spread of vitiligo. These UVB lamps require no photo-sensitizing agents. Typically, patients receive light therapy two to three times a week and see results within one to three months.
Laser treatments like XTRAC are another method to treat vitiligo. Upon exposure to the laser, skin absorbs the light energy, which vaporizes unwanted melanin and lightening pigment. The XTRAC laser beam is highly targeted to precisely treat the areas of skin affected by vitiligo. The process takes only about 5-10 minutes. With laser therapy, patients can expect some redness and possible crusting of the skin, which should subside within one or two weeks.
If you want to know more about your vitiligo treatment options and get a personalized consultation, contact Vanguard Dermatology. Our board-certified specialists have treated thousands of patients with vitiligo in the greater New York City area and are available to help you find the best treatment for you.