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Medical Dermatology


What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a condition in which pigment producing cells are destroyed, creating white patches on the skin. Various areas can be involved including face, neck, eyes, nostrils, navel, genitals, groin, armpits, and the retina of the eyes. It can appear at sites of injuries such as cuts, scrapes and burns. This condition is found in approximately 1% of the population. Most people with vitiligo are otherwise in good health.

What is the cause of vitiligo?

The cause of vitiligo is not known, however, there are four theories regarding this condition:

  • Nerve cells functioning abnormally may injure nearby pigment producing cells.
  • Autoimmune reaction may occur in which the body may destroy is own tissue.
  • Pigment producing cells in vitiligo sufferers may be self-destructive.
  • Genetic factor may cause pigment producing cells to be susceptible to injury.

What is treatment for vitiligo?

The only effective treatment for vitiligo at this time is PUVA light treatment which may take months to years to produce improvement. Other therapies may be suggested by a dermatologist in specific cases. Because these treatments may be very individualized, a discussion in this document would not be possible. Please inquire of your dermatologist.

The newest advance in the treatment of vitiligo is the 308 Excimer laser. The Photomedex laser has outstanding results on head and neck vitiligo. There are very good results on other areas of the body. The hand and feet are most resistant to re-pigmentation. North Valley Dermatology Center has the only Excimer laser in the North State and has been delighted with the results.

Tips for vitiligo patients:

  • Avoidance of tanning by fair skinned individuals make areas of vitiligo less conspicuous.
  • Areas of vitiligo have no natural protection from sun and therefore sunburn very easily.
  • Consistent use of sunscreen prevents overexposure of healthy skin and protects vitiligo areas from sunburn.
  • Self-tanning creams may make areas of vitiligo less noticeable.
  • Waterproof cosmetics matched to your skin color may assist in disguising affected areas.

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