Vitiligo is a long-term problem in which growing patches of skin lose their color. It can affect people of any age, gender, or ethnic group. The patches appear when melanocytes within the skin die off. Melanocytes are the cells responsible for producing the skin pigment, melanin, which gives skin its color and protects it from the sun’s UV rays.
The total area of skin that can be affected by vitiligo varies between individuals. It can also affect the eyes, the inside of the mouth, and the hair. In most cases, the affected areas remain discolored for the rest of the person’s life.
Phototherapy with UVA light
UVA treatment is usually conducted in a health care setting. First, the patient takes a drug that increases the skin’s sensitivity to UV light. Then, in a series of treatments, the affected skin is exposed to high doses of UVA light.
In cases of mild vitiligo, the patient can camouflage some of the white patches with colored, cosmetic creams and makeup. They should select tones that best match their skin features.If creams and makeup are correctly applied, they can last 12 to 18 hours on the face and up to 96 hours for the rest of the body. Most topical applications are waterproof.
When the affected area is widespread, covering 50 percent of the body or more, depigmentation can be an option. This reduces the skin color in unaffected parts to match the whiter areas. Depigmentation is achieved by applying strong topical lotions or ointments, such as monobenzone, mequinol, or hydroquinone.