As patients with vitiligo know, the condition does more than simply change the color of their skin or hair in spots. It can also lead to worry and social anxiety. However, vitiligo treatment under the care of a dermatologist can produce positive results and more evenly colored skin tones. Dr. Clarence Wiley, Sr. welcomes new patients of all ages at his modern Oklahoma City, OK, dermatology office.
What Are the Symptoms of Vitiligo?
Vitiligo symptoms can present themselves at any time during a patient’s life, although most individuals are diagnosed by the time they turn 21. Signs of vitiligo include:
- Splotches of pigmentation loss: These spots can be large or small. They may be located in only one part of the body, such as an arm, or throughout the entire body.
- Loss of pigment in the oral soft tissues: Though this symptom is less apparent, it can concern patients before diagnosis.
- White patches of hair: These patches may develop on the head, genitals, underarms, or chest.
- Itchy, dry skin at the site of skin discoloration: This symptom is more rare, but occurs in some patients.
Patients diagnosed with vitiligo have numerous treatment options available depending upon the severity of their condition and their personal preferences.
How Does a Dermatologist Diagnose Vitiligo?
- Evaluation of patient history: Vitiligo runs in families. If your blood relatives had or have vitiligo, you are at an increased likelihood to develop this condition.
- Examination of skin and blood: Dr. Wiley will perform a comprehensive assessment of your skin. Vitiligo is often accompanied by autoimmune conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and anemia. Therefore, he may also order blood work to obtain a proper diagnosis.
Vitiligo Treatment Options
Patients diagnosed with vitiligo have numerous treatment options available depending upon the severity of their condition and their personal preferences. Some of the most commonly trusted vitiligo treatment choices include:
- Laser Treatments: Lasers can successfully add color to an area that has lost pigmentation. Dr. Wiley uses the XTRAC® laser to treat vitiligo on all parts of the body. Laser treatments can be especially successfully on areas with small patches of vitiligo. Patients who choose laser treatment can expect to visit Dr. Wiley two or three times weekly for several weeks.
- Topical Medications: The application of corticosteroids may be prescribed in some cases of vitiligo. Corticosteroids add pigment to the skin. Within six months, patients may see a dramatic improvement in pigmentation on affected areas. Corticosteroids should only be taken under the care of a dermatologist. Long-term use of these medicines can lead to weak, paper-thin skin that has lost its natural elasticity and plumpness.
- Light Therapy: Light therapy is sometimes used for widespread blotchy areas of vitiligo. If you choose this treatment, you can expect to take a special medicine before exposing your skin to UVA light. This treatment can be effective, but requires a long-term commitment of around a year to see results. Patient monitoring is essential with light therapy, since the medicine can have serious side effects.
- Surgery: In some situations, patients may prefer to have small areas of vitiligo covered surgically. The doctor will remove healthy, normal skin from one area and place it over the vitiligo area. This type of vitiligo treatment can lead to a cobblestone skin effect and is less likely to produce seamless effects due to scarring and complications.
- Cosmetics Application: Patients with small spots of vitiligo around the face, neck, hands, legs, and arms may want to consider self-tanners or makeup to improve skin color. These vitiligo treatments are temporary and must be reapplied, making them unsuitable for patients unwilling to keep up with removing and replacing cosmetics.
Vitiligo can worsen as a patient ages, or can stop progressing. Still, areas of vitiligo almost never recover pigmentation. Therefore, it is important for patients with vitiligo to follow some simple strategies to maintain healthy skin:
- Wear sunscreen and stay out of direct sunlight.
- Consider wearing a hat and sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection when outdoors.
- Avoid tattoos in areas where vitiligo is present, as the associated scarring can lead to increased episodes.
Learn More about Vitiligo Treatment
Individuals diagnosed with vitiligo should seek out advice from a knowledgeable dermatologist. Dr. Clarence Wiley, Sr. is a board-certified dermatologist who has practiced for 40 years. He remains on the leading edge of his practice areas and looks forward to working with new patients. Call (405) 278-7911 or send us a message to schedule an appointment today.