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Vitiligo is a relatively common dermatological condition in which pigment-forming cells (melanocytes) are attacked by the body’s immune system, causing patches of abnormally white skin to develop. These white patches typically start in small areas and spread over time. Common areas affected by vitiligo include the face, neck, armpits, elbows, hands, knees and genitalia. Vitiligo is not contagious. Though the condition cannot be cured, at-home management and medical treatment methods can slow its progress and help the affected area repigment, therefore reducing its cosmetic impact.

What Causes Vitiligo?

Vitiligo affects people of all skin tones and ethnicities, but primarily affects people with darker skin. The exact cause of vitiligo is not yet known. In some cases, the distinctive white patches of vitiligo appear after a sunburn or an injury. In other cases, there is no clear trigger. Research suggests vitiligo is most likely autoimmune in origin. There is also evidence of genetic susceptibility.

What Does Vitiligo Look Like?

Vitiligo appears as patches of white skin with well-defined borders. Some patients develop only a few spots, while others develop widespread areas of whiteness. White hairs can occur in the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes and beard. The eyes may also be affected. Vitiligo can worsen over time, but the rate at which this happens varies from patient to patient.

How Is Vitiligo Diagnosed?

A dermatologist diagnoses vitiligo based on a clinical examination. Sometimes a skin biopsy is required to exclude other conditions that can mimic vitiligo. You may also require a blood test to rule out other associated autoimmune conditions.

How Is Vitiligo Managed At Home?

Skin that has lost its natural pigmentation tends to sunburn easily. Sun protection is essential for patients with vitiligo. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily, wear clothing that protects your skin from the sun and seek shade when possible. If you wish to even out the colour of your skin, makeup can offer temporary camouflage.

When Is the Best Time to Treat Vitiligo?

Early intervention ensures a higher success rate when treating vitiligo.

What Is the Vitiligo Repigmentation Program at Northside Dermatology?

The vitiligo repigmentation program involves the use of anti-inflammatory creams and phototherapy sessions. Your dermatologist will tailor the program to your skin type and the type of vitiligo you have. This program restores pigmentation to white patches of vitiligo in the majority of patients.

Phototherapy uses a specific dose of ultraviolet B (UVB) light to trigger repigmentation in areas of whiteness. Two to three weekly phototherapy sessions over 20 weeks are recommended. Each phototherapy session can be completed in less than two minutes. The aim is to achieve slight pinkness in the affected area the day after treatment. If repigmentation is observed, the program can be continued until complete repigmentation is achieved.

Surgical methods are available but are usually reserved for small patches of vitiligo that have been stable for an extended period.

The highest success rates are for early vitiligo on the face and neck areas. Long-standing vitiligo on the hands and feet generally respond poorly to treatments, however, in some patients, complete repigmentation can be seen.

Is There Anyone That Can’t Participate in the Vitiligo Repigmentation Program?

Some patients who are excluded from the repigmenting program are:

  • Patients who have a personal or direct family history of melanoma
  • Patients who have a history of photosensitive skin disorders

What Is the Cost of Participating in the Vitiligo Repigmentation Program?

If you hold a valid Medicare card and a valid referral from your GP, the phototherapy sessions are bulk billed. Please also see information on consultation fees.

Schedule A Consultation With a Specialist Dermatologist

Vitiligo is not a cause for medical concern, but it can be a devastating influence on your mental health and social life. If you believe you may have vitiligo, the first step is getting a professional diagnosis. A specialist dermatologist can correctly identify the condition and share strategies for managing it with lifestyle modifications, medications and in-office treatments. Book an examination and receive a personalised vitiligo treatment plan at Northside Dermatology by calling us on 03 8582 8688.

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Hours of Operation

Monday - Friday, 9am-5pm

Phone Number

03 8582 8688

Fax Number

03 8582 8788

Fitzroy North

379 St Georges Rd
Fitzroy North 3068

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2A Marchant Avenue
Reservoir, Melbourne

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