What is Vitiligo
The specific cause of vitiligo is unknown. The good news is – the unsightly patches forming on your body are not harmful medically, nor do they produce pain or discomfort. The bad news is – these patches do not go away if left untreated, and can be a source of great emotional distress and loss of self esteem.
Like psoriasis and eczema, scientists think vitiligo may be caused by your own immune system. Pigment cells in your skin produce melanin, the substance responsible for your own unique and individual skin tone. When these cells are attacked and destroyed by the body’s own defense system they stop making melanin, resulting in the skin becoming lighter, or even completely white!
About half of all people who have vitiligo develop it before age 20. It can affect most areas of the body, with some people experiencing premature graying of the scalp hair, eyelashes and eyebrows.
Vitiligo Treatment Options
Current vitiligo treatments and therapies include the use of topical steroids or creams to stimulate pigmentation, cosmetics to conceal the lack of pigment, chemical depigmentation that fades the rest of the skin to match the pale patches, or phototherapy to reverse the process of depigmentation.
Phototherapy for the Treatment of Vitiligo
Nobody really knows for sure how it works, but nobody is really sure what causes vitiligo either, although there are many theories. Phototherapy is one of the most common and successful vitiligo treatments, resulting in repigmentation of the pale skin patches by stimulating neighboring pigmentation cells (melanocytes) into producing skin color again. These neighboring cells are often located towards the edges of the affected areas, near the base of hair follicles, or possibly within the patch itself. Phototherapy appears to work by irritating the skin into working properly again.
When prescribing phototherapy treatment, doctors may select either Ultraviolet A (UVA) light used in combination with the drug psoralen, or narrowband Ultraviolet B (nbUVB) light a alone.
Generally, patients who respond to narrowband UVB phototherapy can obtain over 90% repigmentation within a year – and without any of the adverse side effects that accompany the use of psoralens!
Discuss the advantages of narrowband phototherapy with your doctor today to find out if it might not be the perfect solution for your condition.
Narrowband UVB Light Therapy: An Approved First Choice in Vitiligo Treatment
Although treating this skin condition can be a challenge, there are numerous methods available on the market today. Narrowband UVB light therapy is increasingly becoming the first approach by doctors when treating vitiligo.
Narrowband UVB light (also referred to as just “narrowband”, “NB-UVB” or “nbUVB”) is a relatively new vitiligo treatment option that helps to repigment cells, with minimal to no side effects. In contrast, PUVA phototherapy has proven to be an effective method for treating this skin condition, but many serious side effects have been reported and are well documented. Patients are limited in the total PUVA treatments they can receive in their lifetime; no more than 150 Joules. Other options like corticosteroid therapy have the potential for cutaneous side effects and are not highly recommended for long term care.*
For convenience, narrowband UVB light therapy is often administered three times a week on nonconsecutive days. Once 75% regimentation is achieved, the vitiligo treatment is usually reduced to twice a week or less. It can be administered in a doctor’s office or with a home phototherapy unit.