Q’s & A’s About Vitiligo

What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is when pigmentation is loss from the skin. It is thought that this is mainly due to the body’s own immune system attacking the colour forming cells called the melanocyte.

What are the symptoms of Vitiligo?
Most patients note loss of pigmentation only, although some patients may also experience mild itching.vitiligo_2_high

How is Vitiligo diagnosed?
The diagnosis of Vitiligo mainly made by the examination of the patient where the doctor notes that there is complete depigmentation of the skin, very well defined boarders.

How is Vitiligo treated?

Medical Therapy
Your Vitiligo may be treated by topical steroids or by a group of creams called the immunomodulators. Both of these treatments suppress the immune system where the creams are applied, thereby stopping the immune system from attacking the colour forming cells.

Light Treatment
A form of UVB treatment called narrowband UVB or a treatment called PUVA can be used to re-pigment the skin.

More recently some Dermatologists have combined narrowband UVB with the immunomodulators and have succeeded in re-pigmented skin especially of the face. However, it is not known what the long term consequences of using such a combination particularly in regards to skin cancer. Therefore, more long term studies are required to establish the safety of such a combination.

Are there any dietary factors involved?
It is thought that the group of spices called the Curcumins may exacerbate the depigmentation of Vitiligo. The Curcumin group include Turmeric and Saffron. In general I tend to advise patients to abstain from these two spices.

Is there an increase risk of skin cancer?
No, in fact exactly the opposite. Recent evidence has shown that the incidence of both the dangerous forms of skin cancer called the melanoma and the less dangerous forms of skin cancer called the non-melanoma skin cancers happens a lot less in Vitiligo patients and therefore one of the benefits of Vitiligo is that it may actually protect you against skin cancer!

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