In this Article
- Vitiligo facts*
- What is vitiligo, and what causes it?
- Who is affected by vitiligo, and is vitiligo inherited?
- What are the symptoms and signs of vitiligo?
- Will the depigmented patches spread?
- How is vitiligo diagnosed?
- How can people cope with the emotional and psychological aspects of vitiligo?
- What treatment options are available for vitiligo?
- Medical therapies
- Surgical therapies
- Additional therapies
- What research is being done on vitiligo?
- Where can people find more information about vitiligo?
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
All surgical therapies must be considered only after proper medical therapy is provided. Surgical techniques are time-consuming and expensive and usually not paid for by insurance carriers. They are appropriate only for carefully selected patients who have vitiligo that has been stable for at least 3 years:
- Autologous skin grafts. The doctor removes skin from one area of your body and attaches it to another area. This type of skin grafting is sometimes used for patients with small patches of vitiligo. The doctor removes sections of the normal, pigmented skin (donor sites) and places them on the depigmented areas (recipient sites). There are several possible complications of autologous skin grafting. Infections may occur at the donor or recipient sites. The recipient and donor sites may develop scarring, a cobblestone appearance, or a spotty pigmentation, or may fail to repigment at all. Treatment with grafting takes time and is costly, and many people find it neither acceptable nor affordable.
- Skin grafts using blisters. In this procedure, the doctor creates blisters on your pigmented skin by using heat, suction, or freezing cold. The tops of the blisters are then cut out and transplanted to a depigmented skin area. The risks of blister grafting include scarring and lack of repigmentation. However, there is less risk of scarring with this procedure than with other types of grafting.
- Micropigmentation (tattooing). This procedure involves implanting pigment into the skin with a special surgical instrument. It works best for the lip area, particularly in people with dark skin. However, it is difficult for the doctor to match perfectly the color of the skin of the surrounding area.
The tattooed area will not change in color when exposed to sun, although the surrounding normal skin will. So even if the tattooed area matches the surrounding skin perfectly at first, it may not later on. Tattooing tends to fade over time. In addition, tattooing of the lips may lead to episodes of blister outbreaks caused by the herpes simplex virus.
- Autologous melanocyte transplants. In this procedure, the doctor takes a sample of your normal pigmented skin and places it in a laboratory dish containing a special cell-culture solution to grow melanocytes. When the melanocytes in the culture solution have multiplied, the doctor transplants them to your depigmented skin patches. This procedure is currently experimental and is impractical for the routine care of people with vitiligo. It is also very expensive, and its side effects are not known.
Next: Additional therapies
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