Vitiligo treatments and procedures

I have had vitiligo since I was a child and I am now 45. I am not interested in trying to solve this issue as I have lived and accepted it for so long. Sunscreen, hats, and staying out of the sun is my daily routine. What I am interested in are the options available to me for aging skin! Can I have a glycolic chemical peel, for example? Are lasers safe? What about radiofrequency? I have had botox and fillers but I am not so happy with them. Now I am concentrating on the quality of my skin. In the answer I would like to know about treatments that are safe and effective and treatments that are not recommended for those with vitiligo. I have splotches of vitiligo all over my face and neck and my skin is fair but not sensitive. For some reason those with vitiligo always get advice about this skin disease, but we also have the same issues as any other person with aging skin. We are just a little more complicated with our pigment issues.

I’m glad you asked this question about vitiligo and vitiligo treatments.    An estimated 1-2% of the world’s population have vitiligo.   For those of you who don’t know……it’s an autoimmune problem where the white blood cells of the affected person attack and destroy the pigment making cells in skin (melanocytes).   Once gone, so far, there is no great way to get them back.   These process leaves white patches on the skin.   These patches are less obvious the lighter your basic skin type and more obvious in darker skin types.

In some parts of the world, vitiligo gets confused with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) with……as you can imagine……..devastating consequences if it’s misdiagnosed.

So to answer your questions,  while your skin is essentially normal except for needing extra sun protection, we do not know if procedures like peels and lasers might not make the vitiligo worse by causing it to expand to other areas.   This is because even gentle procedures like a glycolic peel or a gentle laser cause the white blood cells in the skin to be more active thus could make the vitiligo worse.

There are even some reports of the reverse as in fractionated lasers improving vitiligo in some cases.   We really don’t know and that’s why it’s good to get an opinion from your doctors.   At the end of the day though, probably only you can decide whether you want to take the risk that it might get worse!

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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