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Vitiligo treatment options to consider

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Ginkgo Biloba leaves

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  • Conventional techniques for vitiligo help reintroduce pigment to the skin. It should be noted that these conventional treatments may lead to numerous side effects that may affect your lifestyle and skin health
  • Ginkgo biloba has anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties. It also helps in decreasing oxidative stress, which is one of the factors that influence the development of vitiligo

The treatment for vitiligo incorporates varying approaches on dealing with the gradual depigmentation. Most of these treatments focus on evening out the skin tone and minimizing the obvious effects of vitiligo on the appearance of patients. To improve the appearance of their skin, some patients settle on using cosmetic products to decrease the noticeability of their vitiligo.1

Conventional treatments for vitiligo

Conventional techniques for vitiligo help reintroduce pigment to the affected skin. Some of the most common vitiligo treatments include the following:

Phototherapy — This procedure helps even out the skin tone by exposing the skin to UVB light, causing the skin to produce pigment. Two types of phototherapies that are now being used to treat vitiligo are targeted phototherapy and psoralen and ultraviolet A (PUVA).

Targeted phototherapy consists of UVB exposure using a handheld device, which concentrates the treatment to the affected area alone. This procedure is said to help repigment almost 75% of the vitiligo patches, with some patients even achieving full repigmentation. However, this process may cause some minimal blistering and ulcerations.2

The other type of light therapy is psoralen and ultraviolet A (PUVA) treatment. This is done by applying psoralen, a pharmaceutical molecule derived from plant chemicals, onto the skin and exposing it to UVA light. While this has been acknowledged as one of the most effective treatments for vitiligo, patients have also been observed to have a heightened risk for developing skin cancer in the long term.3

Depigmentation — This technique is usually prescribed to patients with universal and widespread vitiligo. The procedure entails the removal of any remaining melanocytes to even out the skin color of the vitiligo patient by the application of monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone to the remaining pigmented skin.4 But because of the removal of the remaining pigment, the patient will have a much higher sensitivity to sunlight and will need to take extra care for the rest of their lives.5

Surgery — This is often the last resort for vitiligo patients when other conventional treatments fail. This is done on people who have had stable vitiligo for a couple of years. Skin grafting or cellular grafting is the most common surgical technique and involves grafting healthy skin onto the white vitiligo patches to reintroduce melanocytes to the depigmented regions.6

It should be noted that these conventional treatments for vitiligo may lead to numerous side effects that may affect your lifestyle and skin health. Most of the treatments that contain chemicals eventually lead to skin atrophy, which is the gradual deterioration of the treated skin.7

Another potential treatment in the future may be a procedure that manipulates a protein called IL-15. Researchers announced in March 2019 that they had discovered in a trial with mice that just two weeks of the treatment caused their vitiligo to achieve repigmentation — and it lasted several months. However, scientists are still developing a clinical trial if the same thing might work in humans.8 Thus, you should consider natural remedies first to address the symptoms of this condition.

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Natural and holistic treatments for vitiligo

A safe way to treat vitiligo is to use natural and holistic techniques, including the use of the following herbs:

  • Ginkgo bilobaIt has anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties. It also helps in decreasing oxidative stress, which is one of the factors that influence the development of vitiligo. Researchers note that it is especially effective in conjunction with other therapies, such as phototherapy.9
  • Bairesi complex prescription — A part of Uyghur medicine, Bairesi complex prescription is a combination of psoralea seed extracts, Plumbago zeylanica, Brassica juncea, Nigella glandulifera and Vernonia anthelmintic.10 It helps by promoting melanogenesis in depigmented areas of the body.11,12
  • Amni visnaga — Khellin, a furanochromone derived from the plant Amni visnaga, has been observed to assist in the repigmentation of vitiligo patches with constant use. This component of Amni visnaga is comparable to psoralen, the chemical used in the PUVA phototherapy, but without the heightened risk for skin cancer after treatment.13

Before using these natural remedies for vitiligo, it is best that you consult a health professional for the right dosage and proper application. It should also be noted that the use of these herbs show varying effectivity on each individual.

For vitiligo patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is strongly advised that you consult with a health practitioner about the safest vitiligo treatment methods you can opt for.

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