Vitiligo is a skin disorder in which melanocytes – the cells that make pigment – are destroyed. As a result, patches of depigmented, white skin appear, typically on the areas of the body with the most sun exposure. However, the white patches can appear on other areas of the body as well.
Patients with Vitiligo will have one of three patterns of depigmented skin:
• White patches that appear symmetrically on each side of the body. This is the most common pattern.
• White patches on one side of the body only.
• One to a few white patches in a localized area of the body.
Treatments include various anti-inflammatory creams (goal = stop the “attack” on the pigment cells) and ultraviolet light therapy (goal = stimulate pigment production to start again.) One common cream we use is tacrolimus ointment. There are also various small studies showing one vitamin or another to be helpful, but the results are inconsistent and the small studies don’t allow for any statistically valid conclusions to be made.
Vitiligo is not painful, nor does it have any medical or health repercussions. However, having such a noticeable skin disorder can be emotionally stressful and can have social repercussions for patients who feel embarrassed or insecure about the appearance of their skin. This is completely understandable, particular for adolescents with Vitiligo.
Here’s the good news. We now have a new treatment tool – The XTRAC excimer laser.
The XTRAC excimer laser is a pain-free treatment that delivers a targeted beam of UVB light to the affected area of skin. While the laser’s focus is very precise – 2cm x 2cm – the treatment time for each exposure is very fast – much faster than the standard phototherapy treatment lasers we used in the past. This means that we can treat a large area in a relatively short period of time. And, because the laser is so exact in size, we can avoid exposing surrounding healthy skin to UVB rays.