Vitiligo manifests itself as a discoloration of the skin. If cells that produce melanin (which gives us our skin color) die or simply cease to function normally, blotches of white skin appear. It may make itself noticed first on the face and hands or on the tissue near orifices. It can also cause loss of pigment in hair or in the retina.
The condition, in its incipient state, is not life threatening. It doesn’t affect internal organs or debilitate you in any physical way but it leaves those afflicted to deal with social distress and even depression. Unfortunately, scientists haven’t been able to determine the exact causes of vitiligo and can only come up with generic ones like stress or genetic disorders or even sunburns.
The lack of an exact cause however does not prevent them from treating it with some amount of success. The best defense is a good offense, so let us look into some of the most efficient ways to keep vitiligo at bay.
Sunscreens, Other Creams and Ointments
- Patches of skin affected by the condition are more prone to sunburns. Exposing them without protection may cause the vitiligo to worsen so sunscreen is important. You should use sunscreen with no less than 30 on the sun protection factor scale.
- If used in the incipient state, a topical corticosteroid cream can help with repigmenting the white patches. Be aware however that this type of cream may have side-effects, such as skin thinning. Allow your doctor to monitor the progress.
- The skin is the organ that benefits the most from vitamin D so apply a cream that contains it. Dovonex is an option. This may cause itchiness and dry skin and you should only use it along with light forms of treatment for vitiligo that we’ll get to in a minute.
- Another type of ointment that you can use is the one that targets the immune system. These may have fewer side-effects that corticosteroid, however the FDA does associate it with skin cancer. It is also most effective in the earlier stage of vitiligo
Combined Methods, Lights and Lasers
- Psoralen is a drug that you can either swallow in the form of a pill or apply to the affected areas. Afterwards, the skin goes through photochemotherapy. More plainly, it gets exposed to ultraviolet light. As it heals after the session a more natural color appears. You may also try this with natural sunlight and the use of Trisoralen. Skin cancer is a possible side-effect along with blistering and itching.
- Up to three times a week, you can also try light therapy with UVB light. This does not require taking any additional drug.
- With an excimer laser you may be able to treat small discolored patches. The laser brings back the pigment and the side effects only include blistering and redness.
Forms of Grafting
- For patients who have limited skin areas at risk, mini grafting can offer a solution. It means transplanting healthy skin on the vitiligo affected patches. This process often requires light therapy afterwards.
- The same can be done with blisters created by the doctor. They are removed from the healthy skin and applied on the patches. This procedure has the lowest risk of scarring.
- Micropigmentation involves the tattooing of the affected area with a special surgical instrument. However it is quite difficult to get the pigment right and this form of therapy runs the risk of another vitiligo outbreak.
None of the options listed above are ideal but what may not work for one can do wonders for another. Vitiligo is a condition that responds differently, depending on the patient. Please remember to only try forms of treatment after consulting with a doctor and under his or her supervision.