Have you heard about the usage of UV light for vitiligo treatment? Phototherapy or light therapy is one of the ways to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and vitiligo. In this article, we will explain what is UV light therapy for vitiligo, how it works, and what its benefits are.
What UV light for vitiligo therapy is like
Vitiligo is a skin condition that causes white patches to form on the skin. It is caused by a decrease in melanin, which is due to the immune system attacking melanocytes, the pigments that form the melanin. Therefore it is considered an autoimmune disease.
Nowadays, doctors use ultraviolet light for psoriasis, vitiligo, and other skin conditions. UV light treatment for vitiligo usually utilizes a special kind of UVB lamp which emits a specific wavelength of UV rays, which is about 300-320nm in length. This wavelength, known as narrow band UVB light, is able to minimize skin inflammation and slow down the formation of skin cells. It also reduces the attack of the immune system on the melanocytes, while at the same time carrying minimum risks of sunburn and skin cancer. Therefore, it is different from exposure to UV light from direct sunlight or tanning beds, which does not separate the UV rays based on wavelength and includes more harmful radiation.
For UV light therapy, vitiligo patients take a medication called psoralen, either orally or applied as a cream. It makes the skin more sensitive to UV light. Then, the patient is exposed to UVB lamp.
Benefits of UV light therapy
UV light prevents the immune system from attacking melanocytes. The therapy is proven effective to encourage the repigmentation of areas with white patches. It is also safe to use even for children and people who are pregnant. Moreover, it is about 85% effective in more than 70% of vitiligo patients. However, it takes a long time for the therapy to show its effects. The lack of effectiveness is usually due to the patients’ inconsistency in following the treatment.
Possible side effects
Although generally safe, phototherapy is not recommended for people who have skin tumors, lupus, or higher photosensitivity or risk of skin cancer due to genetic disorders. If you take certain types of photosensitizing medications, including certain types of antibiotics, they will also affect the effectiveness of the therapy. So, consult a doctor first before using UV light for vitiligo treatment.