Living with Vitiligo: The Benefits of Light Therapy Treatment

Woman smiling with vitiligo Living with Vitiligo: The Benefits of Light Therapy Treatment

Living with vitiligo can be an emotional and psychological challenge. Though harmless biologically, vitiligo can create a lack of confidence, social anxiety, and lower self esteem. Fortunately, there are treatments for vitiligo that reduce the visibility of these patches, restoring your self-assurance and enjoyment of social gatherings.

What to Know About Light Treatment for Vitiligo

What is Vitiligo?

Though completely harmless, vitiligo carries a disproportionate stigma because it is often difficult to hide. Vitiligo causes white patches on the skin due to a lack of melanin. These patches are particularly obvious on people with darker skin tones. They most commonly occur on areas of the skin not typically covered by clothing, such as the face, neck and hands. Vitiligo symptoms also include the discoloration of your hair, the inside of your mouth, or your retina. The spread of vitiligo is unpredictable, sometimes only affecting one side of the body or spreading across the entire body.

Light Therapy Treatment

An increasing number of studies show that light therapy is one of the most effective vitiligo treatments. The UV radiation from light therapy triggers vitamin D production in the body, which can result in re-pigmentation of the skin. Light therapy also causes the growth of melanocytes (cells that manufacture pigment), bringing the original color back to the skin. Light therapy can prevent new white patches from occurring as the UV rays suppress the immune system. Worried that the UV therapy is harmful to your skin? Don’t be! Light therapy is so safe that both adults and children can receive this treatment. You don’t need to worry about harmful effects of the UV radiation because NB-UVB eliminates harmful UV rays. As an extra precautionary measure during treatment, your dermatologist will also cover areas that aren’t being treated.

One form of light therapy involves combining NB-UVB with oral psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA) to enhance re-pigmentation. While effective in re-pigmentation, there are a number of side effects associated with this form of treatment. So, you and your dermatologist might consider alternate forms of light therapy.

Today, narrow-band ultraviolet B (NB-UVB) therapy is more widely used and does not require the use of supplemental medications. NB-UVB can be performed within a full-body cabinet or using a handheld device. The patient typically receives 2-3 sessions per week, with a total of 50-60 sessions.

The timeline to see results from light therapy treatment will vary according to how much of the body is affected by the vitiligo and how long you have had the condition. Usually it takes 2-3 months to begin to see results, and after a couple of years of consistent treatment, you will see pronounced repigmentation.

Though many home-phototherapy devices are being developed, their scientific effectiveness has not been verified. It is generally more effective and efficient to work with a dermatology clinic like Vanguard Dermatology. Contact the experienced staff at Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area to determine the best treatment course for your situation. With NB-UVB, you and your dermatologist can help you regain your confidence to wear those open-necked shirts hiding in the back of your closet.

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