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Newer Treatments for Vitiligo Showing Promising Results

From the late Michael Jackson to America’s Next Top Model contestant Chantelle Whitney Brown-Young, the condition known as vitiligo has received important attention around the country and around the globe in the past 10-15 years.

Known professionally as Winnie Harlow, Brown-Young is a Canadian fashion model who helped raise awareness about the condition (which causes the skin to lose its natural pigment) as a 2014 contestant on the TV show America's Next Top Model and continued raising awareness after her stint on the show as a vitiligo spokewoman. And she has helped to change the face of vitiligo.

Diagnosed at the age of four, she revealed during interviews that she was teased and bullied when she was younger. Yet she has risen above her despair to give a voice to the condition, and in doing so has also helped to redefine the world’s standards of beauty.

Brock Elbank, a London-based photographer who launched a series of photographs of men and women with vitiligo on Instagram, stated in an interview, “I see beauty in what many see as different. Unique individuals who stand out from the crowd are what inspire me to do what I do.1

So, What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease which can occur anywhere on the body. Most commonly vitiligo affects the skin around the eyes, mouth, hands, wrists, elbows, and ankles, but can also cause the loss of coloration of the hair and eyes. The condition can sometimes involve large areas of skin, but it is rare for people to lose all their skin pigment. People who have it may also have other immune disorders like psoriasis, alopecia areata (which causes hair to fall out in small patches), or thyroid conditions.

Despite some positive attention recently, vitiligo can take an emotional toll on some people that goes far more than skin deep, causing feelings of embarrassment, loss of self-confidence and in some, anxiety and deep depression.

Experts think vitiligo may be caused by genetics, autoimmune issues, skin trauma, or a combination. Because the causes aren’t well-understood, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment. Your Advanced Dermatology dermatologist can help you understand vitiligo, and plan a customized course of treatment specifically for you.

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How is Vitiligo Treated?

Treatments vary and are usually designed to restore color to the affected patches of skin. Some of the therapies our dermatologists may use to treat patients with vitiligo include:

  • XTRAC Excimer or Ra Medical PHAROS™ laser therapy. Advanced Dermatology’s clinicians direct concentrated ultraviolet B (UVB) light at affected areas of skin. The light triggers skin to produce more melanin, the element in skin that gives it pigment. Laser treatment focuses only on affected areas, so patches of healthy skin aren’t disrupted. 
  • PUVA therapy uses medication and ultraviolet A light. It takes at least two to three months to see an effect and ongoing treatments may be required.
  • Medications. Applied to the skin daily, medications can restore pigmentation in some people in three to six months.

Over the course of treatment, it’s possible to regain natural skin coloration in the treatment areas. The duration of your treatment plan will depend on the extent of your vitiligo.

Again, success is variable with all of these treatments. Continued treatment may be necessary in order to prevent disease relapse.

Are New Vitiligo Treatments Being Researched?

Through clinical trials, like those being done at our own Ameriderm Research division, new treatments could become available. Learn more about our vitiligo clinical trials.

To learn about your vitiligo or any of our treatment options, call 866.400.3376 or schedule an appointment today.

1 Blair O. This vitiligo photo series is absolutely breathtaking. Cosmopolitan. March 23, 2018. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk /beauty-hair/a19494259/vitiligo-photo-series-instagram/.

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