What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a skin condition caused by progressive depigmentation; it presents as white patches on the skin. The texture of the depigmented skin is not altered and the condition is not painful, although the affected skin may be much more sensitive to the sun.
Vitiligo affects both sides of the body equally, often symmetrically, and the borders of the white patches are irregular but well-defined. White patches may appear gradually or suddenly. Vitiligo is not uncommon, affecting between one-half and one percent of the population. While not serious medically, it can cause emotional distress for the sufferer because of how it makes the skin look.
What Parts of the Body Can Be Affected by Vitiligo?
Although vitiligo can affect any part of the body, this skin pigmentation is usually on the:
- Upper thighs
When vitiligo affects the scalp, the hair growing on the patch is white. It can also affect the chin or eyelid, in which case the lashes or beard become white.
Causes of Vitiligo
Skin Pigmentation Treatment
Vitiligo is a very difficult disorder to treat. In most cases, patients just live with it, using sunblock to protect white patches from sunburn and/or makeup to camouflage them. Although we used to believe that melanin was the only agent protecting the body from sun damage, vitiligo has shown that that is not the case. Some patients suffer severe sunburn on patches and others do not. In all cases, however, it is important for patients to use sunblock.
There are several treatments for skin pigmentation with varying degrees of success. They include the following:
- Phototherapy (medical exposure to ultraviolet light)
- Topical drugs (to increase skin sensitivity to light)
- Topical corticosteroids
- Autologous skin grafts from pigmented areas
- Medical tattooing (micropigmentation)
- Topical immunosuppressants
Other treatments are being used experimentally. One involves the transplantation of melanocytes grown from a patient’s healthy cells to the area affected with vitiligo.
Laser Therapy for Vitiligo
How does the Excimer Laser Work?
The Excimer Laser creates a concentrated, yet painless, beam of ultraviolet light that is delivered to vitiligo patches. This is done through a handpiece that rests directly on the skin. By targeting these patches, the laser stimulates repigmentation with limited exposure to healthy skin.
Vitiligo laser treatment candidates
What to expect during laser vitiligo treatment
The treatment will take place in Dr. Callender’s office. She will determine what dosage is best for the patient. The laser handpiece will be placed directly on the vitiligo patch. Patients will hear a gentle hum and see a blue colored light from the handpiece. The treatment only takes a few minutes.
No preparation is required prior to treatment. The patient should ensure that the area is clean, dry, and free of any makeup, lotions, creams, or SPF protection.
The amount of sessions will depend upon the extent and degree of depigmentation, and location of the patches. Most patients will need fewer than 30 sessions.