Phototherapy Treatment For Vitiligo
Narrowband UVB - now considered the gold standard of treatment for vitiligo covering more than 20% of the body. Narrowband UVB (NB) uses the portion of the UVB spectrum from 311-312 nm. This region has been determined to help stimulate pigment cells to produce melanocytes in less time than it takes to burn the skin. Any kind of light therapy has a suppressive effect on the immune system, so it can possibly stop new areas from forming as well. NB can be done in the doctor's office with a full-body cabinet or, with a doctor's prescription, from home using a full-length panel or a handheld device. The handhelds are very convenient for small areas of vitiligo but are too tedious and cumbersome to use for larger percentages as they cover a very small area at a time. NB is sometimes used in combination with other topical treatments, but is effective for many on its own. NB can be used on children old enough to stand still and keep goggles on. Results are often seen beginning between 30 and 60 treatments, and treatment is usually given 3 times a week. Potential side effects of NB include burning if used for too long. If using a full-body panel or box, the normal skin may tan, increasing the contrast. Only full sized body units provide the immune suppression needed for stabilization that may halt further pigment loss, as the handheld units only treat isolated areas. As long as the patient is old enough to understand that they must keep their eyes closed at all times, and has an annual eye exam, research has shown that it is safe to expose the eyelid to NB-UVB light.
The specialized light penetrates the epidermis deeply enough to stimulate latent pigment cells in or around de-pigmented zones. Face and torso areas respond exceptionally well, while bonier areas such as hands, feet and knees require longer treatment cycles. Whether your white patches are new or old, phototherapy offers real hope.