Vitiligo is a medical condition in which the immune system attacks a certain type of cell, called melanocytes. Because these cells are responsible for pigmentation, the best-known symptom of vitiligo is patches of white skin, and it is often thought of as a cosmetic problem. However, melanocytes serve other functions in the body, and individuals with vitiligo are susceptible to a number of serious medical symptoms.
Dr. Khrom and her team at Khrom Dermatology in Brooklyn, NY provide comprehensive care for patients with vitiligo. That includes treatments to combat loss of skin color, as well as monitoring patient health for signs of related medical problems.
Effects of vitiligo
In most people, signs of vitiligo often begin before the age of 20, though it can develop later in life. The visible symptoms can include:
- Loss of skin color – Depending on the subtype of vitiligo, white patches may be limited to one side of the body, they may be on both sides (usually symmetrical) or may be limited to one or a very few localized spots. Very rarely, it can affect most or all of the body.
- Loss of hair color – Vitiligo can cause white streaks in otherwise dark hair.
- Change in eye color – Vitiligo sometimes affects the retina.
- Hearing loss – Melanocytes are present in the inner ear. When vitiligo attacks them, partial or complete hearing loss can occur.
- Eye problems – In addition to color changes, vitiligo can cause eye inflammation or abnormal tear production.
- Sunburn – Because melanocytes help protect skin from burning, areas devoid of color are extremely sun-sensitive.
- Autoimmune disease – It is believed that people with vitiligo have a higher risk of developing various medical conditions, although this has not yet been scientifically proven, as more research is needed.
We use the UVB XTRACT laser, which is one of the most effective options available for skin re-pigmentation. The procedure works by delivering a controlled dose of UVB energy directly to the colorless patches. It is painless and takes just minutes. Most patients will need a series of eleven or more treatments. Studies have found that more than 90 percent of vitiligo patients see some improvement after a full series, and many experience complete regimentation of the treated area.
The American Academy of Dermatology strongly recommends that anyone with vitiligo be under the care of a dermatologist who is knowledgeable about the condition, such as Dr. Khrom. In addition to providing care for skin symptoms, dermatologists are familiar with the warning signs of potential related diseases and can refer you to the appropriate medical specialist if needed. Call us at 718-751-0674 to schedule a consultation.