What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition.  Your own body's white blood cells attack your melanocytes, the pigment producing cells in our bodies.  Vitiligo results in areas of skin without pigment.  Vitiligo can affect small areas of the skin or the entire body, including mucous membranes, eyes, and hair bearing areas.

Is there a cure for vitiligo?

Vitiligo rarely self resolves and is considered a chronic condition.  It can have a progressive and permanent course or a waxing and waning course, especially if localized and responds well to treatment.

What treatments are available for vitiligo?

Treatments for vitiligo are aimed at decreasing the inflammation/calming down the body's own white blood cells causing destruction of the pigment producing cells (melanocytes).  Topical steroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors and phototherapy are all options for reducing this inflammation.  

Another option for extensive, long-standing vitiligo is depigmentation.  Rather than treating the affected skin, the non-affected skin is bleached with topical agents.

More drastic treatment options are available like surgery where melanocytes are grafted into areas of affected skin.

What else do I need to know if I have vitiligo?

Vitiligo results from the destruction of the pigment producing cells of our skin, melanocytes.  Melanocytes produce melanin and help protect our skin from the sun's damaging UV rays.  Extra caution must be taken by patients with vitiligo given their inherent lack of sun protection.  Practicing sun safety such as wearing sun protective clothing, glasses and sunscreen is essential to preventing skin cancer.