What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo (leukoderma) is a non-contagious, skin disorder in which the skin loses its pigment in patches or spots because of a loss of melanocytes (the skin’s pigment cells). Where vitiligo affects the scalp or other hair bearing regions of the body the hair can also lose its pigment possibly leading to white streaks.
One theory on what happens in the body is that the immune system attacks and destroys the melanocytes. Vitiligo is neither medically dangerous nor physically painful, though the affected person can suffer from emotional or social trauma from the stigma attached to how it changes their appearance.
One thing that a person affected by vitiligo should keep in mind is that prolonged exposure to sunlight may burn the affected areas which can lead to a worsening of the condition. It is recommended that if long exposure to the sun is expected that the affected areas should be covered or protected by UV blocking lotions (SPF 30 or above), long pants, long sleeve shirts and/or wide brimmed hats. This protection will also help to minimize the noticeable difference in color between the affected and non affected areas of the skin. Vitiligo affects 1 to 2% of the population, both male and female, of any race. Research has found that 50% of cases have developed between the ages of 10 and 30, and 95% of cases occur before age 40.
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Cause & Cure
What Causes Vitiligo?
*Vitiligo is associated with a malfunction of the body’s immune system. Scientists are unsure of the root cause of the disorder but they do know heredity is a factor. Doctors have, however, linked certain events with the onset of vitiliginous patches such as a bad sunburn, trauma to the skin through excessive rubbing, or very stressful life situations.
Is There a Cure for Vitiligo?
Although vitiligo is a treatable condition there is no cure. Patients can undergo many different treatments to regain pigment in the affected areas, but repigmentation may not be 100% or permanent.
Can Phototherapy Treat Vitiligo?
Phototherapy is the use of specific segments of the ultraviolet light spectrum to treat skin disorders including vitiligo. The skin is exposed to the light delivered by a phototherapy unit. Hand-held and table-top phototherapy units are used for spot treatment of skin areas or full cabinet units are used for patients requiring full body treatment. Exposure to the specialized light reduces or eliminates the symptoms of the skin disease. There are many sources of information available on the internet and from your physician about vitiligo treatment and we encourage you to do your research. We are discussing just a sampling of the vitiligo phototherapy treatments that are available. Please consult your dermatologist to find a treatment regimen that is right for you.
Depending on your severity, your dermatologist may prescribe protocols involving:
- Narrowband UVB
- Psoralen lotion plus UVA (PUVA)
- Systemic Psoralen plus UVA (PUVA)
The Daavlin Company is a manufacturer of phototherapy equipment in UVA, Narrowband UVB and Broadband UVB and combinations of these. Information is available for patients looking to acquire a unit for home use and also for dermatologists seeking to buy for their clinic environment.
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