3 Types of Laser Treatment for Vitiligo
Maybe you’ve seen someone whose hands are whiter than the rest of the body or someone with odd, white patches on the elbows.
Maybe you’ve noticed white spots on your own skin, which puzzle you because your skin used to be uniformly tan.
These white patches are actually places where the skin has lost its pigment.
Although doctors aren’t 100% certain, general consensus is that this condition, vitiligo, is caused when the body’s melanocytes (pigment cells) attack themselves. There are number of different reasons as to why this might happen, spanning from genetics to stress.
Vitiligo can show up in different places on the body and different patterns, as well, and continued aggravation could cause the white spots to spread.
There are 3 types of laser treatments for vitiligo, but the one you choose should depend on how your vitiligo manifests itself.
3 Patterns of Vitiligo:
- Focal Pattern – Vitiligo that only shows up and is limited to a few places on the body is considered the focal pattern. If the only place you notice it is on your face, you will certainly want to treat it, but if it only shows up on your legs or feet, you may not be as anxious.
- Unilateral or Segmental Pattern – This pattern is on one side of the body or another, and it could be a small patch to quite a large area. Typically, this only lasts a year or two, and then the spreading stops.
- Arcofacial or Generalized Pattern – The most commonly seen pattern of vitiligo, generalized, usually starts at the extremities or around the mouth. Called arcofacial when it starts, it spreads inward, possibly affecting all parts of your body (with the exception of the back, which is usually only affected in small areas, if at all). This can start at a very young age (toddlers), or you could be past 70 before you ever see the first white spot.
Options For Laser Therapy
Because of the invasive nature of procedures such as skin grafting and melanocyte transplants or the expense of doctor-prescribed steroid creams, many people opt for a more natural treatment. These vary from coconut oil rubs on the white patches themselves to a higher intake of certain vitamins. If home treatments aren’t cutting it enough for you, there is another option.
UV light has long be prescribed as a treatment; the sun actually helps encourage the production of pigment, however, since de-pigmented skin burns easily, you may be leery of trying this at home.
There have been great strides in laser light therapy, and in the safety of your dermatologist’s office, you can stimulate your pigment cells under a doctor’s care with the following three light or phototherapies:
Psoralen, a topical medication, is applied to the areas that the UVA light will treat, and it makes these patches receptive to the light. This least intense of the three laser therapies is only recommended if vitiligo covers less than 20% of your body.
Treatments are weekly, can last up to six months, and should improve your condition (up to 55%) after four months or so.
For people whose vitiligo covers more than 20% of their bodies, UVB light is used over the entire body, not just in targeted areas. These treatments last longer, from a year to 18 months, but after that point, you could see up to 65% improvement.
A 308 nanometer laser is used for this therapy, and like PUVA, it only targets the affected areas. This is particularly recommended for the face, and improvement should be apparent within four weeks of starting treatment. Patients have noticed up to 70% improvement after six months.
As always, consult with a medical professional first before choosing your next course of action.