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Vitiligo Overview


Vitiligo Treatments

Currently, there is no cure for vitiligo, but there are treatments for the disease. Depending on the severity of the condition and your original skin color, you may opt for no treatment at all if you have vitiligo. But you must be extremely cautious about sun exposure or wear makeup that evens the skin tone. Others may choose medical or surgical treatments. These treatments either attempt to restore skin to its original color or -- as doctors reportedly recommended for Jackson -- eliminate all pigmentation.

One of the most effective treatments for adding pigment back into the skin is Psoralen photochemotherapy, also called psoralen and ultraviolet A (PUVA) therapy, but this method can be risky. During treatment, a patient consumes or topically applies psoralen, which reacts when exposed to ultraviolet light. The downsides of PUVA are that it's time consuming and can also cause blistering or dark patches [source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases]. Narrow and ultraviolet B (UVB) therapy is an alternative to PUVA that does not require psoralen, but researchers are still trying to figure out how effective it actually is.

Corticosteroid cream can be effective for people who have large areas of color loss, but it takes up to three months to work and can cause thinning of the skin. Immunomodulators work best, especially on the face, for people with small areas of depigmentation. These creams may have fewer side effects, but they are sometimes associated with increased risk of lymphoma and skin cancer [source: Mayo Clinic].

If more than half the vitiligo patient's body has lost pigment, removing pigment from the rest may be the best option. This is done by spreading medicine on the darker areas of skin until it lightens. The result is permanent and will leave the patient extremely sensitive to sun exposure.

Surgical remedies also have their advantages and disadvantages. Autologous or blister skin grafting may be used if the light-colored patches are small. In these procedures, doctors remove tiny bits of healthy skin and place them where pigment needs to be restored. Autologous grafting may cause scarring or uneven color, if it works at all. Blister grafting is less likely to cause scarring, but the treated area still may not look normal, and there's no guarantee that this method will work, either. Finally, doctors may choose to implant pigment under the skin, like a tattoo. This works best around the lips, especially if a vitiligo patient had dark skin to begin with [source: Mayo Clinic].

Can those with vitiligo eat their way to evenly toned skin? Read the next page to find out.


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