Vitiligo is a medical condition that affects the skin. The cells that produce the pigmentation of our skin are called melanocytes. When these cells are destroyed, the pigment is no longer made and our skin loses its color. Most of the time vitiligo causes patches of non-pigmented skin to form on the body. People of all races can be affected by the condition however it is more noticeable in those with darker skin tones. Although the exact cause of vitiligo has yet to be determined there are several different theories on how one may come to have the condition. Vitiligo has been linked to auto-immune diseases and also to heredity.
As for treating vitiligo, there are a few methods, however the duration of the treatments are often lengthy, lasting 6 months to a couple of years. There are topical treatments, surgical treatments and a combination of the two. Usually the first line of treatment is topically. The first of the topical treatments that may be administered is steroid therapy. Cortiosteroid creams can help with the re-pigmenting of the skin. If the steroids are applied to the whitened areas during the initial stage of the disease it can prove to show results after at least 3 months of continued use. This is considered the safest and easiest treatment for the condition, although it can still cause side effects and the dosage and application must be monitored closely by a doctor.
Possibly the most effective method of treating vitiligo is through the use of Psoralen photochemotherapy. This procedure can also be time consuming but has shown to have the greatest results when it comes to re-pigmenting the affected areas of the skin. The procedure involves using the drug Psoralen. Psoralen reacts with ultraviolet lighting to cause the skin pigments to darken. Psoralen can be taken by mouth or applied topically to the skin. The amount of time the skin is then exposed to UVA light is monitored closely. There are side effects that can occur with this method of treating vitiligo just like with other methods, therefore it is necessary for a doctor to monitor the treatments closely. Also, once a person has started using the drug Psoralen they must be extremely cautious when going out into direct sunlight since the drug interacts with the UVA in sunlight as well. Sun exposure must be limited in order to prevent burning and blistering of the skin.
The last topical treatment method that can be used to treat the skin of those suffering from vitiligo is actually depigmentation. This method does not actually treat the areas that have no pigment but rather the areas that do have pigment. Depigmentation involves lightening the rest of the skin on the body in order to blend the two areas together. This is a better option for those who have vitiligo covering at least half their body. By applying a skin lightener topically, twice a day, the skin can begin to lighten over time. This method of treatment is usually permanent and a person must be sure they want to pursue this option before starting. There are many different skin lightening medications available including a variety of active ingredients. Although these products can be found over-the-counter, prescription strength topical cream is best to use so a doctor can be involved with the treatment process.
For those that are being treated for vitiligo it is very important to see your doctor regularly in order for close monitoring. All of the topical treatment methods mentioned above can have positive results but they can all have serious side effects as well. For those that do not respond to topical treatments for vitiligo, a surgical method may be the next step. Remember, treating vitiligo can take some time so do not get discouraged if results are not noticed right away.
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