Vitiligo (cont.)

Additional therapies

In addition to medical and surgical therapies, there are many things you can do on your own to protect your skin, minimize the appearance of white patches, and cope with the emotional aspects of vitiligo:

  • Sunscreens. People who have vitiligo, particularly those with fair skin, should minimize sun exposure and use a sunscreen that provides protection from both UVA and ultraviolet B light. Tanning makes the contrast between normal and depigmented skin more noticeable. Sunscreen helps protect the skin from sunburn and long-term damage.
  • Cosmetics. Some patients with vitiligo cover depigmented patches with stains, makeup, or self-tanning lotions. These cosmetic products can be particularly effective for people whose vitiligo is limited to exposed areas of the body. Many cosmetic companies offer makeup or dyes that you may find helpful for covering up depigmented patches. Self-tanning lotions have an advantage over makeup in that the color will last for several days and will not come off with washing.
  • Counseling and support groups. Many people with vitiligo find it helpful to get counseling from a mental health professional. People often find they can talk to their counselor about issues that are difficult to discuss with anyone else. A mental health counselor can also offer support and help in coping with vitiligo. In addition, it may be helpful to attend a vitiligo support group.

Research Highlights

In the past two decades, research on the role that melanocytes play in vitiligo has greatly increased. A variety of technical advances, such as gene mapping and cloning, have permitted relatively rapid advances in knowledge of melanocytes at the cellular and molecular levels.

Much of the research that holds promise for understanding, treating, and possibly preventing vitiligo is supported by NIAMS. Researchers are looking at the immune response to see if interrupting certain signals given off by melanocytes can help stop the spread of the depigmentation. They are examining the way melanocytes receive signals from other skin cells that direct them to deposit the pigment.

And at the University of Colorado, NIAMS supports a large collaborative project looking for genes that may contribute to vitiligo in several ethnic groups. Researchers have found evidence of a link between vitiligo and a gene called NALP1. It is hoped that further genetic analyses of these groups will enable them to identify one or more additional vitiligo susceptibility genes. This work may lead to development of specific approaches to disease therapy and prevention for patients at high genetic risk.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/14/2014

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Vitiligo - Effective Treatments Question: What kinds of treatments have been effective for your vitiligo?
Vitiligo - Diagnosis Question: How was your vitiligo diagnosed?
Vitiligo - Depigmented Patches Question: Describe your type of vitiligo, its location on your body, and the progression of your depigmented patches.
Vitiligo - Coping Question: What coping methods have helped you in dealing with the emotional and psychological issues associated with vitiligo?
Vitiligo - Personal Experience Question: With your first symptoms, did you suspect vitiligo or think it might be something else? Please describe your experience.