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Have Vitiligo? 5 Treatment Options

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A case of vitiligo can be scary, but you don't have to allow the condition to spread. These five treatment options will help you restore pigment to your skin and get on with your life.

Vitiligo is a loss of skin pigment that occurs seemingly at random. The disease affects a rather small number of people. According to the National Institute of Health, about 1 to 2 million Americans currently have vitiligo. Common areas for pigment loss include hands, feet, arms, legs, around the mouth, around the navel, the armpits and groin, and around the nose.

Although the loss of skin pigment can be scary, the condition is mainly cosmetic. It is unlikely that vitiligo will lead to serious health concerns or increase your risk of death. However, the condition is embarrassing, which is why many individuals try to cure vitiligo once they see signs of pigment loss. If you have vitiligo, these 5 treatment options will have you back on track in no time.

What Causes Vitiligo

No one really knows what causes vitiligo. However, researchers have found certain coinciding factors or other indicators that help determine the possibility that a person will suffer from vitiligo. Some of the main possible causes are listed below:

Possible Causes
  • Family History
  • Viruses and Bacteria
  • Chemical Exposure
  • Autoimmune System Malfunction
  • Low Stomach Acid

For the most part, researchers believe that if vitiligo is caused by anything other than heredity or chemicals, it is most likely caused by autoimmune problems. Put shortly, your body believes skin pigment is a bad substance that it must eliminate. As a result, the skin loses pigment in small or large patches. If someone in your family has had vitiligo before, there is about a 7 percent chance that you will also get the disorder at some point.

Another possible theory is that vitiligo is caused by low stomach acid. Alternative doctor Jonathan Wright, M.D., and several other doctors have theorized that low stomach acid levels could lead to symptoms of vitiligo. Low stomach acid levels lead to improper digestion of food.

When food is not digested properly, undigested molecules may enter the bloodstream. This causes the body to react by sending antibodies to the molecules to break them down and digest them another way. However, this may trigger the body to attack any cells that it finds in the bloodstream- good or bad. This could lead to the body breaking down the pigment-producing cells known as melanocytes. According to Dr. Wright, most adults over the age of 40 have low stomach acid.

5 Treatment Options for Vitiligo

Since Vitiligo is such a cosmetic condition, there are many treatment options. According to studies, the best way to prevent vitiligo from spreading is to address the issues as soon as you realize you have any pigment loss. The large the area of pigment loss, the less likely you will be to obtain a full recovery. The following treatment options have all be shown to benefit vitiligo symptoms in some way or another. Some of the treatment methods are conventional, and some offer alternatives that you can try at home. In many cases, a combination of medical and home remedy treatments was the most effective in restoring skin pigmentation.


This treatment method isn’t really a cure, but it does make the condition less noticeable. Most individuals with vitiligo use some form of camouflage to disguise the white patches of skin. A combination of self-tanner, skin dye, or makeup can all be effective treatment options.

There are a few drawbacks to camouflage. These cosmetic applications can be time-consuming, may wash off easily, and may not appear natural on the skin.

Skin-Based Medicine

There are a few topical medicines prescribed for vitiligo as well as a few natural topical options. The most popular topical medicine is a topical corticosteroid. This is simply a steroid cream that stimulates the area and reduces inflammation. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 45 percent of patients who use this treatment method regain some color within 6 months. The statistics aren’t high, but they are about as effective as most treatments for vitiligo.

In most cases, this treatment method is only effective for small areas. It is most effective on the face and provides a lesser effect on the hands and feet. The most common side effect of this treatment method is thin, papery, dry, and fragile skin.

Light Therapy

Recent studies have found that light therapy can be highly effective in treating vitiligo. There are two main types of light therapy treatments: lightbox and a small laser. The two most popular laser treatments are psoralen and ultraviolet A therapy (PUVA) and narrowband UVB.

In PUVA, a combination of light therapy, oral medication, and topical skin treatment is used to help repigment the skin. Results can take 2 years or longer to develop.

In narrowband UVB therapy, patients are exposed to UVB rays. No medications are taken in conjunction with this therapy.

For large areas of vitiligo, Excimer laser treatments are sometimes used. This uses focused, monochromatic UV rays that restore pigment to the skin. Often, this treatment method is used in conjunction with a topical tacrolimus ointment.

Just like topical treatments, results are best on the face and worst on hands and feet. About 70 percent of patients see some improvement with laser treatments. However, 80 percent also lose some color within 4 years, and 44 percent lose all benefits after 1 year. Laser treatments can take about 12 weeks.


In some cases, surgery is an option for treating vitiligo. Surgery is usually only prescribed in adults who have shown no result in treatments for 6 months. Surgery is not recommended for individuals who scar easily. Surgical treatments are done in one of two methods.

Traditional skin grafting transfers pigmented skin to non-pigmented areas. The procedure encourages pigment to return to the area where it was previously lacking.

A newer form of surgery is Autologous melanocyte transplantation, which is where the skin is cultured in the laboratory to allow the melanocytes time to spread before the skin is grafted to the non-pigmented area.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, surgery is effective in about 90 percent of cases. However, the risk of side effects like scarring and infections are high.

Natural Vitiligo Treatments

If you do not want to go the medical route, you don’t have to suffer from loss of pigmentation. Additionally, some research has suggested that using alternative natural treatment methods in addition to traditional treatments for loss of pigmentation on the skin may be more effective than conventional treatments alone. The following 5 natural treatment methods can help you restore pigment to your skin.

Natural Treatment Options
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Bael fruit
  • Digestive enzymes
  • L-Phenylalanine
  • Vitamin B12
  • Folic Acid
  • Khellin


Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba is an herb that is useful for a variety of conditions. Several studies and clinical trials have indicated that ginkgo biloba is effective against vitiligo. In one trial from 2003 conducted by the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in India, 10 patients supplementing with ginkgo had a significant or complete return of pigment by the end of the study. The researchers state that ginkgo is best for vitiligo that is slow-spreading.

Digestive Enzymes: As suggested earlier as a possible cause of vitiligo, restoring the proper amount of stomach acid could be a potential cure or help for vitiligo and other forms of pigment loss. Adding digestive enzymes to your diet can help you restore the correct balance of acid to the stomach. The supplement betaine hydrochloride may also help restore digestive balance. Two tablets at the end of each meal should help train your stomach to produce more acid on its own. Once the balance of acid is restored to your stomach, you may begin to see a return of pigmentation in your skin. This method works best when combined with other treatment methods.

L-Phenylalanine: L-phenylalanine is an amino acid that is surprisingly effective at restoring pigmentation to the skin in children and adults alike. According to studies, the supplement is most effective when taken in combination with light therapy. In one study from 2002 conducted by a hospital in Spain, it was shown that a mixture of UVA treatment and l-phenylalanine had dramatic results. Within 12 months, 63 percent of study participants had between 75 and 100 percent return of pigmentation.

Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid: Can vitamins restore pigmentation to the skin? Some research suggests that it is a possibility. A study conducted by University Hospital in Sweden in 1997 showed that a mixture of vitamin B12, folic acid, and UVB exposure helped treat vitiligo. In the study, 64 percent of patients saw a complete halt of the spread of vitiligo, and re-pigmentation occurred in just over 50 percent of study participants within 3 months.

Khellin: Khelllin is a natural extract of plants in the carrot family. Research has shown that khellin has similar effects on vitiligo as the conventional drug methoxsalen. A study from 1998 published in the Journal of Dermatology showed that with a mixture of khellin supplements and UVA treatments, 41 percent experienced re-pigmentation of at least 70 percent.

Bael Fruit: The bael fruit has shown some indications as a healing fruit for vitiligo. Bael can be taken internally and applied topically to the skin. According to Purdue University, it is the ingredient psoralen that makes bael effective as a vitiligo treatment. psoralen increases the skin’s tolerance for sunlight, which helps the body absorb more of the beneficial sun rays that naturally restore pigment to the skin. Bael is an excellent companion treatment to UV therapy.

Treating Vitiligo and Re-Pigmenting Skin

Vitiligo usually does not have side effects other than the loss of pigmentation, which means that in most cases, vitiligo is simply an annoying condition. However, you do not have to suffer from loss of skin pigment thanks to the multitude of treatment options available. Before starting any treatment method, discuss the program with your doctor. Even natural treatment methods could have side effects that could interfere with other medications or treatment options. Luckily, the treatment methods for vitiligo are simple, and few have lasting or extremely damaging side effects.





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