West Houston Dermatology

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Vitiligo Treatment Options at West Houston Dermatology

People with vitiligo have a chronic, autoimmune disorder of the skin where the immune system attacks and destroys melanocytes – the cells that pigment the skin.  For some reason, the body’s immune system perceives the melanocytes as foreign invaders or an infection.  In Americans this disease affects about 1% of Caucasian population, but other ethnicities across the globe differ.  In fact, in India medical experts report about 6% of the population is affected, with similar percentages in Saudi Arabia.  The white patches of skin that appear where melanocytes are destroyed are called lesions.  While the exact cause of vitiligo is unknown, there are several treatment options available to patients, such as topical steroids, light therapy, micropigmentation (tattooing), and cosmetics to cover affected areas.  Recently, the Seattle Times published an article about a young man who had two prominent vitiligo lesions around his mouth which caused him a great deal of anxiety when going out in public.  This patient was not bothered by his appearance when around family and friends who understood his condition, but he sometimes experienced people staring at him in public. Treatment options such as steroid topical creams and light therapy can help to re-pigment the lesions, but because each patient is unique, not all treatments are successful for every patient.  Whether treating vitiligo using topical creams, light therapy, or skin grafting techniques, the approach is similar:  first, the dermatologist must calm the patient’s immune system, and second, the dermatologist must work to re-pigment the lesions.  The patient interviewed for the Seattle Times article was treated with an outpatient surgical procedure that has been performed on a limited basis in the US.  The patient had a skin transplant where unaffected skin cells were harvested from his thigh and infused in the lesions surrounding his mouth.  Physicians performing this procedure state that it is not for everyone and that it works best on patients with segmental vitiligo (those with lesions only on one side of the body). Unlike phototherapy and topical creams to treat vitiligo, the long-term outcomes of this surgery have not been studied, and insurance companies do not cover skin transplant surgery at this time.   West Houston Dermatology is a national expert treating patients with vitiligo.  Not only does West Houston Dermatology successfully treat vitiligo patients, but also remains aware of the newest treatment methods so that he may help educate their patients about their condition and provide effective treatment.