What is Vitiligo and How to Treat It
Vitiligo affects 1 to 2% of the population. It may be triggered by any kind of damage to the skin (Koebner Phenomenon
). It takes the form of skin white spots with a sharp margin and a milk white color (click here to see pictures showing the same person with and without Vitiligo depigmentation)
The normal texture and sensation of the skin are preserved. No scaling occurs. Vitiligo spots need to be differentiated from other skin discolorations, including tinea alba and versicolor caused by fungus. To learn more about the main types of skin hypopigmentations click here
. In case of doubt, as always, consult your doctor.
Vitiligo may either remain static for years or progress gradually, sometimes extending rapidly over a period of several months.
Vitiligo is believed to be an autoimmune disorder with a genetic basis. An autoimmune disorder is any condition in which a person's immune system reacts against the body's own tissues or organs attacking them. In the case of Vitiligo, the immune system attacks and damages or destroys melanocytes. Melanocytes are specialized skin cells that produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment that give the skin its natural color.
Treatment is based both on a large body of information that supports the autoimmune theory associated to a genetic defect that makes the melanocytes susceptible to injury. Current knowledge about how the skin pigmentation process occurs is also helping to design better Vitiligo treatments.
Treatment may have different targets:
Limiting or stopping the autoimmune reaction against melanocytes (ex. corticosteroids).
Protecting melanocytes from a group of harmful products called "free radicals", which are the result of the autoimmune reaction that causes depigmentation (ex. vitamins, pseudocatalase).
Stimulating melanocytes to regenerate and/or produce melanin (ex. UVA, UVB, PUVA, controlled sunlight exposure).
Replacing melanocytes (a modality of surgical treatment) by transplanting grafts from uninvolved skin into the affected areas.
A combination of several of the above mechanisms (ex. Novitil).
Novitil is a product designed to both protect melanocytes and stimulate them to produce melanin. It can be used in combination with any of the above mentioned treatments substantially improving results and decreasing the length of time of the most currently used treatments like steroids, UVA or UVB (and therefore the potential occurrence of side effects).