How Phototherapy Works to Treat Your Vitiligo

Vitiligo is one of those conditions that is frustrating. There’s a clear problem — in this case, whitish patches on the skin — but no one has figured out what causes the problem or exactly how to solve it.

At Dr. Allen Sapadin’s office in Hackensack, New Jersey, we understand your frustration with your condition, and we want to help with an exciting new phototherapy treatment.

Let’s take a look at how phototherapy for vitiligo works.

What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a disease that causes the loss of skin color in various blotches all over your body. It can occur anywhere on the body and it can even affect your hair and the inside of your mouth.

Your skin and hair color is determined by a pigment called melanin. When someone has vitiligo, the cells that produce the melanin, called melanocytes, stop functioning. These cells either die or just stop doing their job.

Vitiligo affects people with all skin types but may be more noticeable in someone with darker skin. An estimated two to five million Americans (about 2% of the population) have the condition. It usually shows up in young people early in life between the ages of 10 and 30, and you are more likely to get it if someone else in your family has it. 

How does phototherapy help?

No one knows why the melanocytes in your body stop functioning, so there is no known cure for vitiligo. Once the white patches have developed, it’s rare for the pigment to return. You can sometimes improve the appearance of the affected skin with cosmetics or corticosteroid creams.

Another promising avenue of treatment is phototherapy. This treatment uses ultraviolet light therapy in an attempt to re-pigment the skin that has lost color. This is a powerful but gentle treatment used to stimulate pigment production.

Dr. Sapadin uses an excimer laser to perform phototherapy. The treatment is well-tolerated by most patients. You may notice a sunburn-like warmth on your skin after treatment, but that is actually a good sign — it means the light is at work underneath your skin.

Most treatments take just a few minutes in the doctor’s office. If you are having your vitiligo treated with phototherapy, you can typically expect new pigmentation within 30 treatments. 

Because the treatment protocol takes a larger number of treatments, some patients tend to lose their commitment over time. If you want to truly see results, you should stick with the entire treatment regimen Dr. Sapadin recommends. The re-pigmentation often lasts a year or more.

If you decide to try phototherapy, make sure you visit a doctor who is trained in this form of treatment. If too much light is administered, it could burn your skin, and if too little light is given, it probably won’t improve your vitiligo.

At Dr. Allen Sapadin’s office, our expert team is highly skilled and highly trained, and ready to help you. Contact our office today to set up your initial consultation — we can’t wait to make a difference in your life!

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