Vitiligo Treatments – Skin Solutions for Loss of Pigmentation

vitiligo treatmentsThere are a number of vitiligo treatments involving changing the colour of the skin through surgery, tattooing, or simple camouflage make-up to cover the white skin spots. The severity of the condition and the individual circumstances of the patient will affect their choice of treatments and patients with vitiligo are urged to consider their decisions carefully, especially in cases where vitiligo treatments have permanent, irreversible effects.

Depigmentation

Perhaps one of the most drastic steps to take for a vitiligo sufferer is deciding to depigment those areas of naturally healthy skin that remain unaffected by vitiligo. This is an option only usually suggested or considered once the white patches of skin cover more than 50% of the patient’s body. Depigmentation is a technique which involves fading the normal skin to match the colour of the areas that have lost pigment. Monobenzylether of hydroquinone (monobenzone) is applied twice daily to the normal skin until the loss of pigmentation matches that of the affected skin. Those choosing this vitiligo treatment option should be aware that side effects such as redness and swelling of the skin are common, and permanent sun sensitivity also occurs. Other effects include pruritis (itchy skin), dry skin, and a darkening of the whites of the eyes. Such treatment requires careful consideration as it is permanent.

Vitiligo Treatments – Surgery

Another drastic step in treating vitiligo is to undergo surgery to transplant skin from an unaffected area to the area that has lost pigment. These autologous skin grafts (known as minipunch skin transfers) pose little risk of tissue rejection as the patients’ own skin is used. Unfortunately, the trauma inflicted on the skin at the site of the graft may exacerbate vitiligo, as can infection if it arises. Scarring may also occur, pigmentation may become patchy, and the skin may develop a blotchy appearance after skin transplants for vitiligo. An alternative technique is called blister grafting and involves the use of heat, cold, or suction to blister pigmented skin for removal and transplantation to blistered depigmented skin. This causes less scarring than more extensive skin grafts (although this is still a risk, alongside a blotchy appearance).

Tattooing for Vitiligo

Where patients with vitiligo wish to avoid surgery and the use of medications they may opt for permanent tattooing of the skin to give the appearance of pigmentation, although this is not generally recommended for patients. Micropigmentation is often sought where vitiligo has affected the lips, particularly in darker skinned people where white patches on the lips are more apparent. It is tricky to match the natural lip colour using this technique, however, and the shade may fade over time. Other risks include the chance that the trauma of tattooing the lips will cause blisters and lead to the spread of vitiligo to further areas of skin trauma.

A number of other therapies, including natural therapies for vitiligo exist with varying degrees of efficacy and benefit. One potential help for vitiligo sufferers comes in the form of stem cell therapy using autologous melanocyte transplantation. No clinical trials have, as yet, been conducted to test such a technique and so patients with this patchy skin condition will usually have to choose from the above options for vitiligo treatments.


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