Vitiligo (also called "leukoderma") is a skin condition in which
there is loss of pigment from areas of the skin resulting in irregular
white spots or patches, even though the skin has normal texture.
Vitiligo may appear at any age. Although it is a progressive
condition, many people experience years or decades without developing
new spots. The cause of vitiligo is not greatly understood, and there
may be many causes that result in the condition.
Vitiligo is not contagious in any way. Susceptibility to vitiligo is
thought by many to be genetic, as it is often, though not always, seen
in families. It is thought by many experts that Vitiligo is an
autoimmune related disorder, meaning a condition in which the body's
immune system turns on its own tissue or cells, in this case, the
melanocytes (pigment cells which give the skin its color.) This does
not necessarily represent a weak or deficient immune system, but
rather one which is malfunctioning or misdirected. Other research has
centered on diet, vitamin deficiencies, and internal pathogens such as
yeast proliferation. Though the condition has no other known effects
on the body, the psychological and social effects are well documented.
New research has suggested that too much hydrogen peroxide in the skin
of those with vitiligo may be at the root of the problem. Called
"oxidative stress," it is felt that people with vitiligo may not have
the proper enzyme (or enough of it) to break down hydrogen peroxide,
which naturally accumulates in the skin.
Vitiligo is more noticeable in darker skinned people because of the
contrast, although when they tan, even lighter skinned people are
affected. This condition affects about 1% to 2% of the US population,
or about 3 to 6 million people. In some countries, the incidence is
even higher. Worldwide, there are thought to be more than 100 million
people with the condition. Vitiligo would appear to be as old as the
recorded history of man - it is mentioned in the Bible, and there are
references to it in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Chinese writings.
For years, many dermatologists have told their patients that vitiligo
is untreatable, or have offered only limited treatments such as
steroid creams or PUVA. Some are so bold as to inform their patients
"You're lucky it's not fatal. or "You're lucky you don't have cancer."
And while it's true the condition is not fatal or physically
debilitating, this is of little consolation to most sufferers. Many
doctors are equipped only to prescribe the PUVA system (Ultra Violet A
light treatments and psoralen medication), and although still
appropriate and effective for some patients, new and promising
technologies such as Protopic ointment, Elidel Cream, Narrow Band UVB
light, pseudocatalase, pigment transplantation, excimer lasers, and
other procedures, are showing equal or better success. More and more
doctors are becoming aware of the great promise seen in new
technologies being developed around the world to treat vitiligo.
Today, vitiligo is a treatable condition, though treatment can take
two years or longer to regain pigment. There is more research being
conducted than ever before; in Europe, in Asia, and in the U.S., new
technologies and research are changing physicians' approaches to the
condition. The recent mapping of the human genome has paved the way
for advanced genetic research into vitiligo, and other cell-based
theories are also gaining attention.
Many experts believe that with genetic and biomedical technology
improving as they are, that within the next few years, we will see a
greater understanding of vitiligo, as well as faster and more reliable
treatments for this, and other autoimmune conditions.
To learn more, we recommend
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where you find people
with Vitiligo helping people with Vitiligo.
UVB Narrow Band
Narrow Band Ultra Violet B Light is a
relatively new technology on the vitiligo
front. In the past, most doctors have used
the PUVA system, which involved the use of
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