What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a chronic, autoimmune disorder of the skin, where your own body’s immune cells are attacking the pigment producing cells (melanocytes) of the body to cause depigmentation. It can affect any part of the body, and can be in multiple different patterns. Depending on a person’s usual skin type, the patches of loss in pigment can be subtle to quite striking. It usually starts before the age of 30 and is seen more frequently in patients with family history of vitiligo or other autoimmune diseases (thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, alopecia areata, among others). Patients with vitiligo are also at greater risk of developing other autoimmune disease in themselves. It is rarely associated with other systemic issues (hearing loss, neurologic issues). Vitiligo that suddenly emerges later in life should be worked up for other disease.

Are there things that worsen vitiligo?

Injury to the skin can cause the disease to worsen in the areas of injury (koebner phenomenon). Sunburns should be protected against as it will worsen vitiligo. Stress is a pro-inflammatory mediator so it can worsen any inflammatory disease. Hormonal changes have been implicated in some studies (pregnancy, oral contraceptive pills).

How is vitiligo diagnosed?

Your doctor will evaluate your medical history and perform a visual examination of your skin. A Wood’s lamp (a specialized black light) may be used to highlight more subtle and emerging spots. It is usually a clinical diagnosis and rarely requires biopsy. If there are other suspicious symptoms, some blood tests may be done.

What are common vitiligo treatments?

There is no one perfect cure for vitiligo. Your doctor will discuss various combinations of topicals including the newest topical JAK inhibitors. Phototherapy (an in-office controlled UVB based light therapy) is also an option. There are certain areas of the body that respond better to treatments (face and hair bearing areas of the body). There are also systemic agents that can be used but there is not one that works consistently and they carry the risk of side effects. Depigmentation can be considered as well as surgical treatments. They can be discussed but the patient will be referred elsewhere for these to be done. Ultimately, camouflage is an overall option and brands with made for medical camouflage will be discussed.

Where should I go for treatment of vitiligo in Ashburn?

At Clear Dermatology, our healthcare team understands the impact vitiligo can have on your confidence and your life. If you would like to discuss the most up to date treatment options with our dermatologists, call us today at 703-996-4000 or schedule your appointment online now.