There’s a lot of information out there regarding Vitiligo, including some “treatments” and “cures” with questionable methods and claims.
Here you have answers to the 5 most common questions about Vitiligo to help you on your journey.
Is there really no cure for Vitiligo?
Vitiligo, like other chronic autoimmune conditions, is not caused by a parasite, a bacteria or a virus that you can eradicate with medication. Instead, is a response from your immune system to a variety of environmental and genetic factors.
In the case of Vitiligo, these circumstances cause a malfunction in some of the cells that make up your immune system, resulting in the attack on another group of cells called melanocytes.
When the melanocytes are damaged or destroyed, they can no longer produce melanin and that’s when the white patches that characterize Vitiligo begin to appear.
So, as you can imagine, for as long as those environmental factors I mentioned earlier are still present, you can count on your body behaving incorrectly and for Vitiligo to continue to be around.
What about the photos of people that have regained pigmentation?
While Vitiligo has no cure, there are ways to treat it and it is possible to regain most if not all color back to your skin. I’ll take the opportunity to speak about the main treatments available, including our own Immunotrax Pigment Protection formula.
These are most often used for Vitiligo as the initial treatment when the condition has been recently diagnosed and its main purpose is to slow down or halt the advancement of Vitiligo. They’re usually applied twice a day and require 3 to 6 months to show results. This treatment aims to locally suppress the immune system and thus reducing the amount of damage received by the melanocytes.
Psoralen & Ultra-Violet A Light (PUVA)
Applied 2 to 3 times weekly, it normally takes 2 to 3 months to begin showing results and treatments that last over 200 sessions is not unusual. Topical Psoralen and regular sun exposure are also used, but there’s a higher risk of severe burns and blisters due to the lack of control over UV exposure.
Excimer Laser Therapy
Uses the same principle as phototherapy, but making use of a laser that emits Ultra Violet-B in a small concentrated area. Treatment needs to be applied 2 to 3 times a week though results typically begin to show after 3 weeks, with some patients reporting at least 75% repigmentation in the areas treated after 15-20 weeks.
Bleaching (Monobenzylether of Hydroquinone)
Though not a treatment, some people affected with large areas of Vitiligo can opt for removing the remaining natural color of their skin, essentially bleaching the areas not affected by vitiligo in order to even out their skin color.
Natural Topical Creams
Several brands of topical treatments for Vitiligo make use of natural ingredients rich in antioxidants and Psoralea corylifolia – the plant where the Psoralen comes from. Psoralen is found in many Vitiligo treatments due to its ability to increase the sensitivity of the skin to UV light.
Immunotrax Pigment Protection (Polypodium Leuctomos & Pine Bark AKA Pycnogenol)
Its highly concentrated formula interacts with T-Cell morphology by minimizing changes in cytokines, protecting at a cellular level the cells and proteins that trigger Vitiligo. Taken twice a day, repigmentation typically begins to show in 2 to 3 months. Immunotrax is also commonly used alongside phototherapy to accelerate results and protect the skin from the phytotoxicity and cancerous effects of prolonged UV radiation.
Will it ever stop? Or am I going to lose color everywhere eventually?
Left untreated, it probably won’t ever stop completely, but it’s also unlikely that you lose color everywhere in your body evenly. This is why some people affected with Vitiligo in large visible areas sometimes choose to bleach the rest of their skin.
How fast Vitiligo progresses varies widely from person to person. For some, Vitiligo may be slow and steady, while others may have large periods of slow or no progression at all, followed by short timeframes of rapid expansion.
Stressful events and situations such as losing a job or the death of a loved one are often credited with outbreaks of vitiligo spreading rapidly.
Am I going to have to be in treatment for the rest of my life?
This is a complicated question, but in most cases, the answer is no, you won’t, at least not continuously. Following successful repigmentation, you can stop treatment until the white patches begin to show up again.
In some cases, Vitiligo remains inactive for several years until something triggers it back, at which point you will need to resume treatment.
It is always best to treat Vitiligo as soon as it appears, this way you minimize the chances of irreversible damage being done to the melanocytes cells.
I like my white spots and I’m not pursuing treatment, but, is Vitiligo putting my health at risk in some other way?
Embracing the uniqueness of Vitiligo is probably the healthiest alternative that exists. The emotional effects of Vitiligo can sometimes be devastating, leading low self-esteem or depression.
But if you like it, there is really only one downside to not getting treatment, and it’s not a big one for most people. The lack of melanin in the vitiligo affected skin means that those areas are more vulnerable to the sun and therefore should be better protected from prolonged exposure.
One thing to be aware of is that because you have Vitiligo, you’re also more likely to develop another autoimmune condition, but that remains true regardless of seeking treatment or not.
In a research study led by Dr. Iltefat Hamzavi and researchers at Henry Ford Hospital, found that 20 percent of the 1,098 vitiligo patients studied had at least one additional autoimmune disease.
For reference, Thyroid disease was 15 times more common in Vitiligo patients than in the general U.S. population, while Alopecia Areata was 31 times more common.