Vitiligo: What is it?

Vitiligo: What Is It?

Melanin is the pigment that gives color to your skin, hair and eyes. Vitiligo occurs when the skin’s pigment-producing cells die or stop producing melanin. Blotches of skin on any part of the body start losing color, becoming lighter or white. The locations, rate and extent of vitiligo’s effects are unpredictable, though the color loss usually first appears on areas of the body that are exposed to sun, such as the face, arms and hands.

What Causes Vitiligo

What Causes Vitiligo?

It is thought that vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the pigment cells in the skin. Heredity plays a part, and there may be an event that triggers the start of vitiligo, such as a sunburn or stress. It affects both genders, and people of all ethnic origins equally, though it is more noticeable on darker skin.

Can Vitiligo be Treated?

There is no cure for vitiligo, but the physicians and other healthcare professionals at Advanced Dermatology offer treatments with the goal of re-pigmentation of the affected areas.

Vitiligo’s course is unique for each person affected, so it’s important to see your Advanced Dermatology physician or other skin condition specialist right away to discuss effective treatment options.


Medications applied to the skin daily can produce results for some people in three to six months. This treatment option requires regular monitoring of dosage and effects.

PUVA therapy

PUVA therapy may be more effective and involves use of a medication and ultraviolet A light. It takes two to three months to see an effect and ongoing treatments may be required.

Narrow-band UVB

Narrow-band UVB involves use of ultraviolet light concentrated in a very narrow range which appears to be the most effective treatment of many skin diseases. While studies have been done using narrow-band for the treatment of psoriasis, it also shows promise as an effective treatment for vitiligo and other skin diseases.

Laser therapy

Laser Therapy can be used on any area of the body affected by vitiligo, but studies have shown that it tends to be most successful on the face and neck. If laser is deemed helpful, we use both the XTRAC™ Excimer laser or the Ra Medical PHAROS™ laser. We have had good results in treating this difficult condition but up to twenty treatments may be needed. A hand-held device delivers the treatment only to the area where it’s needed, not exposing healthy skin. Laser treatments are performed two or three times a week and are relatively quick. Most patients feel no discomfort during these laser sessions, while some patients report a warm sensation, similar to a mild sunburn, at the treatment site. Re-pigmentation starts to be visible within six to 12 treatments, and successful re-pigmentation can often be achieved over time. Individual results will vary. It’s safe for children, pregnant women and women who are nursing.

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