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Vitiligo is a condition of the skin in which the skin loses its melanocytes, or pigment cells, in certain areas. This results, typically, in discolored patches around the skin. These affected areas can appear anywhere on the body, as well as on the hair and mucous membranes. While vitiligo can affect anyone, it is often more visible on people with darker skin. It is not a contagious condition and it is not a life-threatening condition.
Vitiligo starts at any age, but usually presents before someone is 30. The signs of vitiligo include:
Vitiligo happens when the melanocytes in the skin, hair or mucous membrane start to die off or stop working. The absence of these pigment-producing cells results in a faded color in that area of the skin. What triggers this is not exactly known. Vitiligo may be related to an autoimmune condition, hereditary traits or a triggering event such as skin trauma or stress. While non-life threatening, vitiligo can come with some complications, including social stress, eye issues, hearing loss and a higher tendency to sunburn in the affected areas.
There are a number of methods for treating vitiligo.
Since there is loss of pigment in the skin, strict sun avoidance to the affected areas is very important. The affected areas are very susceptible to burning and damage from the sun. If sun avoidance is not possible, sun protective clothing or adequate sunscreen is strongly recommended.
Topical steroids, prescribed by your dermatologist, can help improve the condition with minimal negative side effects. Other topical treatments may be recommended for areas on the face or eyelids.
XTRAC® phototherapy is a safe and effective treatment for vitiligo. This light treatment works on multiple levels to help restore pigment to focal areas. The treatment does require the patient to come into the office two to three times per week and can take weeks to months before improvement is seen.