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What are the treatment options for vitiligo?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Vitiligo treatment options include the following:
  • makeup
  • repigmentation therapy (oral or topical corticosteroids)
  • topical immunomodulators and light therapy
  • skin grafting
  • depigmentation (lightening of the skin)
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
If your doctor diagnoses you with vitiligo, he or she may tell you about a number of treatment options, from the conservative (cosmetic make-up) to the most aggressive (surgery). Here are some of the main ways in which vitiligo is treated:
  • Cosmetic approaches can make your skin color appear more uniform. These include make-up, self tanner, and skin dye.
  • Medications, such as corticosteroids, can help the skin regain color and work best on small areas of skin and the face. They are most successful in people with dark skin.
  • Depigmentation uses medication to lighten the unaffected areas of skin to make them look more like the areas vitiligo has lightened.
  • Light or laser treatments that help repigment the skin are very successful, but must be done repeatedly.
  • PUVA light therapy combines light with a medication called psoralen. It is the most effective treatment for widespread vitiligo, but requires about a year of treatments at a specialized center to be successful.
  • Surgery is a treatment option when other options have failed. It involves removing healthy skin from other areas and placing it where pigment is needed. It can be done only in people whose condition has been unchanged for at least six months. Another surgical approach, tattooing, injects pigment directly into small areas, such as the lips.
Because there is no cure for vitiligo, most treatments aim to either help people adjust to having vitiligo and/or to changing skin tone so it is more even. Joining a support group or receiving counseling for depression or anxiety accompanying the vitiligo can help.

Skin treatments include:
  • Drugs in skin ointments (called topical immunomodulators). Usually, your doctor will use such ointments together with ultraviolet (UV) light treatments to darken the skin patches.
  • Photochemotherapy. In this treatment, an ointment with psoralen, a drug, is applied to your skin, and then your skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UVA) light.
  • Corticosteroids. The strength of corticosteroids can be varied for people of different ages and size or spread of skin patches. These creams or ointments are used to change your skin's color.
  • UVB therapy (narrow-band). Your vitiligo patches are exposed to narrow-band UVB light.
  • Oral psoralen photochemotherapy (oral PUVA). This treatment is similar to photochemotherapy, only you take the psoralen by mouth.
  • Depigmentation. A medication called monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone (monobenzone) is applied to your skin. This treatment makes the rest of your skin lighter like the patches of vitiligo. It's permanent.
  • Skin grafts. Your own skin may be grafted on to small patches of vitiligo. Or in a different procedure, blisters are made on other pigmented sections of skin. The top of the blister is removed and transferred to the unpigmented area of skin.
  • Tattoos. Pigment is put into your skin, but it may not match your skin's color exactly.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.