Vitiligo is a chronic and often highly noticeable condition affecting the skin of many people. White patches that develop on the hands or face can be a clue to identifying someone with vitiligo. It is not an infection and it is not contagious. This is a common misconception that leads many people with vitiligo to feel outcast and isolated. Vitiligo has a significant impact on the self-esteem of many people who suffer from it as in many cases it begins to develop at the peak time when they are developing their sense of self, such as their teen years or early adulthood. Vitiligo affects people of all races and, while more visually noticeable on people with darker skin types, the impact on patients with lighter skin types can be just as great.
Sometimes, the white patches of vitiligo can be related to other internal medical conditions such as autoimmune disease including thyroid abnormalities.
Vitiligo is very treatable. Unfortunately we are not able to cure vitiligo but it can be treated with significant improvements achievable for many people using creams, light treatments (phototherapy), systemic (tablet) treatments and sometimes, surgical treatments.
At Bulimba Dermatology your dermatologist will review your medical history and ask specific questions regarding your condition. They will also look very closely at your skin. Making the right diagnosis is an important part of managing vitiligo. Sometimes your dermatologist will arrange for you to have blood tests. Occasionally a biopsy of the skin may be taken if the diagnosis is unclear.
Combining treatments usually provides the best results for patients. Often specialised creams together with phototherapy (narrowband ultraviolet B treatment) tailored individually for patients, can give the best results. Phototherapy, together with special anti-inflammatory creams can offer benefits for up to 80% of patients with vitiligo.
As phototherapy treatment is usually performed 2-3 times per week under medical supervision in our clinic and continues for approximately 10 weeks or more, it is only suitable for motivated patients. Each individual treatment takes only minutes and is painless. All phototherapy treatments are bulk-billed at Bulimba Dermatology, so apart from a small facility fee the only cost to the patient is their time.
Sometimes treatments do not work. Often, the effects of treatment are greater in some parts of the skin than others. The aims of treatment are to stop further loss of skin colour and to restore lost skin colour. Sometimes no treatment other than cosmetic camouflage and sun protection may be the best treatment.