Peds Derm Corner- Vitiligo- December

Each month, Dr Swanson posts information about a common pediatric dermatology issue to educate patients and parents. This month, the topic is vitiligo.
What is vitiligo?
Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition where the body makes a mistake and attacks the pigment producing cells in the skin.  Because those pigment making cells are under attack, they don’t make pigment and patients develop white patches.
How do I know it’s vitiligo?
It’s important to have your child evaluated by a dermatologist to know for sure.  There are lots of other conditions that can cause the skin to be lighter in certain places so the only way to know for sure is to see a dermatologist.
How is vitiligo treated?
Vitiligo can be treated in a few ways.  There are a couple of topical creams that can be used including Clobetasol and Protopic.  Clobetasol is a strong topical steroid that is used once a day on the vitiligo patches.  Because it is a strong topical steroid, it is not appropriate to use everywhere on the body.  Protopic is a medicine that works like a steroid, but isn’t a steroid.  It is applied twice a day to the vitiligo patches.  Since it’s not a steroid, it is safe to use on places like the face to treat the vitiligo.  Both topical medicines can take up to 6 months to see any benefit.
Sunlight can also treat vitiligo.  It can be difficult to use sunlight to treat the patches as ideally sunscreen would have to be applied to all areas that not affected and then the affected areas are exposed to the sunlight.  A relatively easy way to do this is with our excimer laser.  Excimer laser is basically focused sunlight.  It does not hurt.   It can cause a sunburn if the settings are too high, but that is the only side effect.  Excimer laser is a very effective way to treat vitiligo, but the treatment is done in the office twice a week and therefore can be problematic with school and activity schedules.
If you have any other questions regarding vitiligo and how it is affecting your child, please schedule an appointment with Dr Swanson, our pediatric dermatologist.
 What is a pediatric dermatologist?
A pediatric dermatologist is someone that has undergone extensive training to deal with the specific skin conditions and issues that affect children. Pediatric dermatologists have typically completed medical school, a general dermatology residency, and a pediatric dermatology fellowship. While all dermatologists receive some experience dealing with children with skin problems, a pediatric dermatologist has chosen to subspecialize and receive more extensive education and training with the pediatric population.