Vitiligo Treatment – What Are Your Options?
Vitiligo is a skin disorder characterized by the appearance of growing white patches of skin on different body parts. Typically, these patches first appear on the areas of the body most exposed to sunlight, i.e. the face, arms and legs, and then spread to other areas. These white patches arise because the pigment-producing cells in the skin (the melanocytes) stop functioning or die off. What exactly causes this to happen is still debatable, although most doctors believe that it is a form of autoimmune condition. Medical vitiligo treatment options involve either medications or surgery.
Vitiligo Treatments – Medications
The most common medical vitiligo treatments are steroids, immunomodulators, psoralen photochemotherapy and de-pigmentation.
Steroid therapy involves the use of corticosteroids to bring back the color in the white patches of skin. You will need to use steroids for at least 3 months to see any improvement, and you need to be aware the steroid use is associated with a number of side effects. Immunomodulators are somewhat similar to steroids, and are used when it is suspected that vitiligo is caused by an autoimmune destruction of the melanocytes. The effectiveness of immunomodulators is limited, and may increase your risk of skin cancer and lymphoma.
A more effective treatment option is psoralen photochemotherapy, which is the re-pigmentation of the skin using a combination of ultraviolet light therapy and psoralen cream or drugs. The problem with this therapy is that it requires bi- or tri-weekly visits to the clinic for weeks or months at a time.
For cases of vitiligo where the white patches cover most of the body, dermatologists may recommend de-pigmentation therapy. This involves the use of topical chemicals that bleach the remaining normal-colored parts of the skin, so that it matches the color of the affected skin. Patients who undergo this treatment become extremely sensitive to sunlight, and may experience itchy and dry skin.
Vitiligo Treatments – Surgical
Most patients are not satisfied with medical therapy, and will opt to undergo surgical procedures. Unfortunately, most insurance companies do not cover these treatments, and the patients will have to pay for them themselves.
Surgical interventions for vitiligo are generally a type of skin grafting, i.e. the cutting of skin from an unaffected body part and its reattachment to an affected body part. However, the transplanted skin is often rejected by the body, and results in inflammation and infection. In addition, even if the transplant is successful, the grafted skin tends to develop a cobblestoned appearance, which is obviously unsightly.
Another form of surgical treatment is tattooing, wherein the doctor will fill in the white patches with a special ink. Obviously, the dye will never match the natural skin color perfectly. This treatment is only recommended for very small white patches.
Natural Treatment of Vitiligo – A Better, Safer Option
What many doctors don’t tell you is that you can actually cure your vitiligo without resorting to any medications or surgical interventions. It has been proven scientifically that by use of only herbal extracts and vitamin supplementation, combined with dietary and lifestyle changes, anyone can get rid of their vitiligo in as quickly as a few weeks.