Vitiligo is a commonly misunderstood skin condition that causes skin to lose its pigment. While there is no cure for vitiligo, treatment is possible, notably in the form of light therapy.
Vitiligo is not well understood, even after years of scientific research. There are a number of theories about what causes it, but its symptoms are fairly straightforward.
Vitiligo involves the pigment melanin, which gives skin its color. Vitiligo does not affect anyone differently or in higher numbers, but it is more noticeable on people with darker skin. This is because vitiligo drains skin almost entirely of its pigment, making it white. The best theory for what causes vitiligo lies within the body’s immune system. As with many other immunological disorders, experts are still trying to make sense of exactly what’s happening. Vitiligo is believed to be the result of white blood cells and other cells that make up the immune system attacking melanin by mistake. It’s important to remember that this is only the most supported explanation for vitiligo. It’s not proven, and as such there is no cure for vitiligo.
Light therapy (or phototherapy) is not a new concept, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not an incredibly exciting skincare technology. Light therapy is the broad name for a number of skin treatments that employ light in some way. In light therapy, light can refer to a concentrated beam like a laser, or a larger beam or broad light. Light therapy is very safe when performed by skilled professionals and the worst side effects are no worse than a moderate sunburn.
Light therapy involves UV or ultraviolet light, which can be dangerous to skin. For that reason, it’s important to find a trusted dermatologist who can perform phototherapy for vitiligo. While spas and home treatment devices offer amazing results, you shouldn’t take chances when it comes to UV damage.
Vitiligo is caused by a lack of the pigment melanin in patches of your skin. When skin is exposed to UV light, it produces melanin as a defense. The purpose behind using light therapy to treat vitiligo is fairly straightforward, but it can be done in different ways. When skin is exposed to concentrated UV light from a laser, it can jump-start the body’s natural melanin production. In a lot of cases, your dermatologist will prescribe a supplement called psoralen. Psoralen is a natural substance derived from plants and it helps your body better absorb and process UV light. Psoralen can be taken orally or applied directly to the skin. While it can help on its own, psoralen will work far more effectively when combined with light therapy in a process called photochemotherapy.
Results from light therapy are not permanent and you will need multiple sessions to get the desired outcome. But phototherapy is effective, and it’s the best and least invasive way to restore your natural skin tone. Melanin will naturally deplete from treated areas and vitiligo can always affect new areas of skin. If this happens, your dermatologist can extend the treatment to other patches of vitiligo and recommend a treatment schedule that will keep your skin looking as it should.
Vitiligo is a difficult skin condition to reckon with, but you don’t have to admit defeat. Reach out to your New England dermatologist now to explore light therapy options and keep vitiligo under control.