Vitiligo

 

An inflammatory process that is idiopathic and results in depigmentation of the skin consequent to loss of melanocytes from the epidermis, and in whitening of hair that follows loss of melanocytes from the bulb of follicles.  Could you be suffering from this condition?  Contact Us To Schedule An Appointment!

 

Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a condition that causes depigmentation of sections or areas of the skin.  This occurs when cells in the skin called melanocytes which are responsible for skin pigmentation die or become unable to function.  The cause of this condition is unknown, but research suggests that it may arise from autoimmune, genetic, oxidative stress, neural, or viral causes.  Less than 1% of the population in the world has this disorder.  The most common form of vitiligo appears on the skin in symmetric patches, sometimes over large areas of the body.
 
Signs and Symptoms of Vitiligo:
The most common symptom of vitiligo is patches of skin with depigmentation that occurs on the extremities.  The patches of skin usually start out small, and then they often enlarge and change shape.  The most common areas for skin lesions to occur are the face, hands and wrists.    The depigmentation is often more noticeable around certain areas such as the mouth, eyes, nostrils, genitalia, and umbilicus.
 
Causes of Vitiligo:
The cause of vitiligo is unknown.  Research suggests that it may arise from an autoimmune, genetic, oxidative stress, neural, or viral causes.
 
Treatment of Vitiligo:
There are four main categories that vitiligo treatments generally fall under, these categories are:
  • UVB Phototherapy – The most common treatment for vitiligo is exposure to UVB light from UVB lamps.  Treatments can be done in a doctor’s office or with a domestic UVB lamp at home.  Treatment may take a few weeks, if the spot is on the neck and face and if they existed less than 3 years.  Vitiligo located on the hands and legs may take a few months to treat, especially if they have been there for longer than three years.  Areas that are large may have to be treated  in the hospital.
  • Puva Phototherapy - Ultraviolet light (UVA) treatments are usually carried out in a hospital clinic.  Psoralen and ultraviolet A light (PUVA) treatment involves taking a drug which increases the skin's sensitivity to ultraviolet light.  The skin is then exposed to high doses of ultraviolet A light.  Treatment is usually required twice a week for 6-12 months or longer. 
  • De-Pigmenting - In cases of extensive vitiligo the option to de-pigment the unaffected skin with topical drugs like monobenzone, mequinol or hydroquinone may be considered to render the skin an even color.  The removal of the skin pigment with monobenzone is permanent and vigorous.  Sun-safety must be adhered to for life to avoid severe sun burn and melanomas.  De-pigmentation takes about a year to complete.
  
Additional Resources:
 
Vitiligo
American Vitiligo Research Foundation (link to AVRF)
National Vitiligo Foundation (link to NVF)
Q and A About Vitiligo (link to NIH)
Vitiligo Handout (link to AAD)

 
En Espanol
El Vitiligo (PDF) (link to NIAMS)