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FDA Approves New Vitiligo Treatment, Ruxolitinib (Opzelura)

The JAK inhibitor cream is the first medication that can restore pigment in people with this autoimmune disease.

Becky Upham

On July 18, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ruxolitinib ( Opzelura ) cream 1.5 percent as a treatment for the most common form of vitiligo, according to a statement by Incyte, the manufacturer of the drug.

Vitiligo is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes patches of skin to lose pigment and turn milky white. The most prevalent form is nonsegmental (also known as generalized) vitiligo, in which white patches appear symmetrically on both sides of the body, such as on both hands or both knees, often covering large areas.

Ruxolitinib is the first medication that can restore pigment in patients with nonsegmental vitiligo. The FDA approved Incyte’s ruxolitinib cream for adults and children ages 12 and up.

“This approval is monumental,” says Daniel Gutierrez, MD , assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and dermatologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City, who was not involved in the drug development. “With Opzelura, we will have an FDA-approved pharmaceutical treatment option that can actually bring back color in patients who have vitiligo,” says Dr. Gutierrez.

He adds that prior to ruxolitinib, the only FDA-approved medication for vitiligo was monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone, a topical drug that removes pigment from skin to even out tones.

What Is Vitiligo?

Researchers estimate that between 1.9 and 2.8 million adults in the United States have vitiligo, with perhaps 40 percent of adults with vitiligo going undiagnosed.

Vitiligo causes immune cells to destroy melanocytes, the skin cells that produce pigment, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases . “This makes vitiligo much more noticeable in patients of color — people whose skin is much more richly pigmented — because there is going to be much more of a contrast between the unaffected skin and the skin affected by the vitiligo,” says Gutierrez.

Vitiligo can occur at any age, but most people experience the initial symptoms before age 30.

About 50 Percent of People Using Ruxolitinib Had Significant Repigmentation After One Year

Ruxolitinib belongs to a class of drugs called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors. While doctors prescribe oral JAK inhibitors for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ruxolitinib is the only topical JAK inhibitor approved in the United States.

The FDA previously approved ruxolitinib for mild to moderate atopic dermatitis (eczema) , in the fall of 2021.

JAK inhibitors work by decreasing the activity of the immune system, blocking certain enzymes that cause inflammation.

Patients using ruxolitinib apply the cream twice daily to the affected areas, covering up to 10 percent of their body’s surface area. It may take 24 weeks or more for people with vitiligo to see satisfactory results, according to Incyte.

The FDA based its approval on data from a clinical trial program that compared ruxolitinib to a placebo cream in more than 600 people (age 12 and older) with nonsegmental vitiligo. Investigators used the Vitiligo Area Scoring Index (VASI), a tool used to gauge disease severity and to measure improvements in face and body repigmentation.

In the two trials, by week 24 approximately 30 percent of people treated with ruxolitinib experienced significant improvements (at least 75 percent) as measured by VASI, which was the goal of the study. At one year, about 50 percent of those using the medication achieved that level of repigmentation.

“People using Opzelura had much more improvement in their vitiligo — very meaningful — compared to the placebo,” says Gutierrez.

The most common side effects seen in the trials were application-site acne, redness and itchiness, pharynx and nasal cavity inflammation, headache, urinary tract infection , and fever.

Ruxolitinib Comes With a Black Box Warning

The FDA added a black box warning to ruxolitinib, based on data showing that people taking oral JAK inhibitors faced a small increased risk of serious infections, major heart issues, clotting (thrombosis), cancer, and even death.

“However, in the clinical trials for people using ruxolitinib as a topical cream, the concentrations of the drug found in the blood were observed to be much lower compared to people who take ruxolitinib orally,” says Gutierrez. The same risks were not observed in the ruxolitinib trials, but the FDA is taking a “better safe than sorry” approach by including a warning on the box, he adds.

A conversation with your healthcare provider is the best way to determine whether the benefits of ruxolitinib outweigh the potential risks, as well as the need for any baseline and/or ongoing monitoring.

Patients Can Use Ruxolitinib on Their Face

Although dermatologists sometimes prescribe topical steroids off-label for vitiligo, there are risks when applying these medications to the face — the area where loss of pigment can impact appearance the most, says Gutierrez.

When used on the face, topical steroids can cause an acne-like rash that can persist for many months, called perioral dermatitis . Plus, “they can cause atrophy or dispigmentation, meaning you can have skin color changes. They can also thin the skin, cause stretch marks, and cause the growth of small blood vessels in the area,” Gutierrez says.

Ruxolitinib does not pose these risks, notes Gutierrez.

FDA Approval Means Better Access to Vitiligo Treatment

The FDA’s approval of ruxolitinib will definitely improve access to the drug by validating it as medically necessary. “Because vitiligo just creates a color change in the skin — there’s no itching or dermatitis under normal circumstances — sometimes it’s considered a cosmetic condition, meaning it’s not medically necessary to treat,” Gutierrez says. As a result, some insurers have declined to cover vitiligo treatments , according to the Vitiligo Research Foundation .

“However, this condition can dramatically impact how a patient sees themselves and how they present to the world. Vitiligo can cause significant psychological distress and negatively impact quality of life,” says Gutierrez.

“Vitiligo disproportionately impacts patients of color,” he adds. “This approval is an important step in improving a health disparity that does exist, and hopefully there will be more treatment options for vitiligo in the pipeline.”

How Much Will Ruxolitinib Cost?

The current Wholesale Acquisition Cost pricing is $1,950 for a 60 gram tube of Opzelura, according to Gabriella Greig, a spokesperson for Incyte. The actual cost to the consumer will vary depending on insurance coverage and how much of the cream is required for treatment.

“Incyte is committed to working with insurance providers in the U.S. to ensure eligible patients who can benefit from Incyte’s products have access to them,” says Greig. The company offers a  copay savings card on its website for people with commercial insurance.

Vitiligo Research

any new research on vitiligo

Vitiligo Advancements and Discoveries

There has been an increase in the amount of research being undertaken in vitiligo over recent years and dermatologists have an improved understanding of the natural history and different types of the condition. Here you will find a brief summary of research into several areas, with references to the original research articles, for those of you who wish to follow these up.

Researchers are looking at:

  • The effectiveness of existing treatments;
  • Possible causes of vitiligo;
  • How the condition develops;
  • Segmental vitiligo;
  • The association of vitiligo with other conditions;
  • The psychological effects of vitiligo.

It is hoped that the improvements in scientific understanding will in future lead to more effective treatments for vitiligo.

Are psychological interventions important for vitiligo patients?

Yes, a survey of vitiligo patients and healthcare professionals found that psychological interventions are important for managing the impact of vitiligo on patients’ lives.

A survey was conducted to identify psychological interventions for vitiligo. The survey was funded by the UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network and involved patients and health professionals. The survey recorded personal data and focused on the effect of vitiligo on normal life, as well as the most difficult problems faced by patients and which approaches would be helpful.

  • Patients with vitiligo reported key issues such as acceptance of their disease, the duration of the disease and managing embarrassment.
  • Other concerns were participating in sporting activities and exposure to sunlight.
  • Interventions considered useful by professionals to address these issues included cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and mindfulness therapy.

Psychological interventions for vitiligo are a research priority, but there is little published on appropriate therapy from both patient and clinician perspectives. The unique survey referenced here is therefore of value to the future treatment of vitiligo patients.

Will piperine treat vitiligo?

Although promising results have been seen in cell and animal studies, and early work toward clinical trials in humans is underway, the effectiveness and safety of piperine as a treatment for vitiligo in humans has yet to be fully established.

Ongoing research is being conducted, but funding is needed to support further studies. Therefore, it is unclear at this time whether piperine will ultimately prove to be an effective treatment for vitiligo.

Amala Soumyanath led the research that discovered piperine as a potential treatment for vitiligo. In her own words, she shares the story of her research journey and provides an update on the latest developments. Become a member today and access more resources and stories like this.

How was piperine discovered as a potential treatment for vitiligo?

Piperine was discovered as a potential treatment for vitiligo through research and testing of herbal extracts , where a water extract of black pepper was found to stimulate melanocyte growth and dendrite formation. The compound responsible for this effect was identified as piperine, which could be developed for use in treating vitiligo.

How was piperine validated as a “lead” molecule for the treatment of vitiligo?

Piperine was validated as a “lead” molecule for the treatment of vitiligo through studies conducted at King’s College London. They tested extracts from various herbs and found that piperine from black pepper was the most effective at stimulating the growth of pigment cells. Further studies were conducted to make chemical variations (analogs) of piperine and two of these analogs showed good activity.

All three compounds, piperine, THP, and RCHP, were found to stimulate the growth of pigment cells in mice, causing their skin to visibly darken. These studies allowed the researchers to secure international patents for the use of piperine and its analogs to treat vitiligo.

How was piperine’s effectiveness and safety in treating vitiligo validated?

Piperine’s effectiveness and safety in treating vitiligo were validated through a detailed plan for a clinical trial of piperine in patients with vitiligo. Prior to the clinical study, experiments were conducted to investigate the effects of piperine on human pigment cells, including melanocytes from the uninvolved skin of a vitiligo patient.

Piperine was found to stimulate the replication of human melanocytes in culture and when grown within a reconstructed skin model. Colleagues in OHSU’s Biomedical Engineering and Dermatology departments used innovative optical methods to image pigmentation and melanocytes in the skin models.

What were its effects on human pigment cells and melanoma?

Experiments funded by AdPharma, Inc. showed that piperine has an inhibitory effect on cultured melanoma cells and prevents melanoma cell growth in a reconstructed full-skin model. To further study this aspect, the HGF mouse model of melanoma was introduced to OHSU.

The effects of piperine in this model are currently being studied with pilot funding from the Department of Dermatology’s Jesse Ettelson Fund for the Advancement of Dermatology Research. These ongoing studies are essential to establish the safety of piperine.

What is the status of piperine for treating vitiligo in humans?

In 2013, the appointment of Professor Sancy Leachman, a dermatologist and expert in pigment cell biology, gave a significant boost to the project of developing piperine as a new treatment for vitiligo. Dr. Pamela Cassidy and Eric Smith also joined the team, and a core group is working to bring this discovery to the clinic. The current status of piperine as a treatment for vitiligo in humans remains unclear.

Amala Soumyanath’s Personal and Professional Journey to Develop a Treatment for Vitiligo

Amala Soumyanath’s journey began when she received a phone call from Maxine Whitton, an MBE-awarded vitiligo service provider, sparking an idea to develop piperine as a potential treatment for vitiligo. With dedication and persistence, Amala’s knowledge of drug development processes led her to develop piperine to the point of being tested in humans.

Her personal experience with vitiligo, developing noticeable patches in 2006, fueled her drive to find a treatment for this difficult condition. Alongside a team of talented researchers at OHSU, they continue to evaluate piperine’s efficacy and understand its effects on melanocytes, with Dr. Sancy Leachman leading the project and Amala as the ongoing champion.

Is piperine the new treatment for vitiligo?

Amala Soumyanath and her team at OHSU are developing piperine as a potential treatment for vitiligo. A “proof of concept” human study demonstrating piperine’s safety and efficacy could attract large pharmaceutical companies to move forward with the project, but funding is needed. Donations of any size can make a real difference to the project’s progress. While piperine shows promise as a treatment for vitiligo, further research is required before it can be established as a new treatment.

How can you help?

The team at OHSU is reaching out to the general community for funding to support their ongoing studies on piperine for vitiligo at both the clinical and basic science levels. Donations of any size from those affected by vitiligo or anyone interested in supporting the research can be made online to the Vitiligo Research Fund .

Read Amala Soumyanath’s full story here .

What impact does vitiligo have on a person’s quality of life?

Vitiligo can have a moderate to severe impact on a person’s quality of life, including depression, stigmatization, and impaired sex lives. The location of the lesions and cultural values related to appearance and status may also play a role. Research has found that:

  • Quality of life is closely related to the patients’ apprehensions about their disease, psychosocial adjustment, and psychiatric morbidity.
  • British Asian women with vitiligo often feel visibly different and have experienced stigmatization due to cultural values related to appearance, status, and myths linked to the cause of the condition.
  • Quality of life impairment in women affected with vitiligo assessed using the DLQI was equal to the impairment caused by psoriasis.
  • Vitiligo had a negative impact on the sex lives of women with vitiligo.

To learn more about the impact vitiligo has on an individual and their quality of life you can find the full articles below:

  • Quality of life of patients with vitiligo attending the Regional Dermatology Training Center in Northern Tanzania
  • Depression, anxiety and health‐related quality of life in children and adolescents with vitiligo
  • Quality of life and psychological adaptation of Korean adolescents with vitiligo
  • Vitiligo linked to stigmatization in British South Asian women: a qualitative study of the experiences of living with vitiligo
  • Effect of vitiligo on self‐reported health‐related quality of life
  • The Problems in Sexual Functions of Vitiligo and Chronic Urticaria Patients

Can thyroid issues cause vitiligo?

There is evidence to suggest that thyroid issues can be associated with vitiligo. The frequency of thyroid disease in vitiligo patients is higher compared to the general population, and it is recommended that all patients with vitiligo have their thyroid function checked.

In the course of their clinical work, dermatologists discovered:

  • the frequency of thyroid disease in vitiligo patients was 15.1%, 
  • autoimmune thyroid disease was 14.3% 
  • and the presence of thyroid-specific autoantibodies was 20.8%.

To learn more about the association between thyroid issues and vitiligo you can find the full article here .

Does vitiligo increase your risk of skin cancer?

Although patients with vitiligo have a tendency to burn in the sun, a survey conducted by a team from The Netherlands found that patients with vitiligo have a threefold lower probability of developing malignant melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. The reasons for this are not yet fully understood.

Read the entire survey here and learn more about this on BBC iPlayer .

What is segmental vitiligo?

Segmental vitiligo is a form of vitiligo that presents with patches distributed unilaterally and locally . It has been compared with a possible mosaic or neurogenic background, but its distribution pattern is not entirely similar to any other skin condition. Cutaneous mosaicism may be involved in segmental vitiligo. However, the underlying mechanism of segmental vitiligo is still unknown.

Learn more about the distribution pattern of segmental vitiligo here .

How is vitiligo classified?

Segmental vitiligo is classified separately from all other forms of vitiligo, with the term ‘vitiligo’ being used as an umbrella term for all non-segmental forms, including mixed vitiligo in which segmental and non-segmental vitiligo are combined and which is considered a subgroup of vitiligo.

Experts recommend that disease stability is best assessed based on the stability of individual lesions rather than the overall stability of the condition.

Read the entire article about the classification of vitiligo here .

What is the Koebner phenomenon in relation to vitiligo and how can it be assessed?

The Koebner phenomenon (KP) refers to the development of vitiligo within an area of skin that has been damaged by localised, often mild trauma (e.g. an injury). Dr. N van Geel and colleagues of Ghent have looked at this phenomenon. They developed a new assessment method for KP, taking into account both the history and clinical examination of people with vitiligo; this seems to be a useful and valuable tool for assessing KP in daily practice.

The results support the hypothesis that KP may be used to assess and predict the course of vitiligo (access the entire article here ).

What is the relationship between Halo Nevi and vitiligo?

Halo nevi are common moles with a white ring around them, showing the sort of pigment loss that is seen in vitiligo. They may represent a distinct condition, but in some cases, they may be an initiating factor in the development of vitiligo, according to research by Dr. van Geel and researchers (access the entire article here ).

What are the mechanisms of pathogenesis of vitiligo?

The pathogenesis of vitiligo is believed to involve oxidative stress, which leads to an imbalance between reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body’s ability to detoxify them. (Access the entire article here ).

According to research (access the entire article here ): 

  • Mitochondria within melanocytes and blood cells generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) that may be relevant in vitiligo development.
  • Modification of membrane lipid components in vitiligo cells may cause mitochondrial impairment and the production of intracellular ROS after exposure to mild stress.
  • Autoimmunity plays a role in the pathogenesis of vitiligo, with tyrosine hydroxylase identified as an autoantigen target.
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase antibodies are more frequent in people with active non-segmental vitiligo (23%) but not in the segmental type.

How does vitiligo affect the layers of skin?

Genetic studies show that susceptibility to vitiligo is related to proteins or parts of the pigment cell involved in the immune system (access the entire article here ). Research from Dalian, China, reveals that alterations in skin biophysical properties, such as stratum corneum (SC) hydration, melanin and erythema index, are lower in vitiligo-affected skin (access the entire article here ). 

However, no difference in skin surface acidity was observed, and the SC integrity was similar in involved and uninvolved areas. Barrier recovery in vitiligo-involved areas was significantly delayed compared to uninvolved areas.

What are the systemic treatment options for vitiligo?

It is difficult to find a systemic treatment for vitiligo at the moment (one that affects the whole body). Some of the commonly used systemic treatments for vitiligo include:

  • Ginkgo biloba – taking 60 mg of Ginkgo biloba BID was associated with a significant improvement in total Vitiligo Area Scoring Index (VASI) and Vitiligo European Task Force (VETF) scores, but more clinical trials are needed (access the entire article here ).
  • Piperine – has been suggested as a potential treatment for vitiligo, yet only a few studies have been conducted and most have been on animals (access the entire article here ).
  • Cosmetic camouflage – not only conceals the depigmented patches but has been shown to improve the quality of life in patients (access the entire article here )

What are the surgical treatment options for vitiligo?

Surgical treatment options for vitiligo involve transplanting melanocytes from normally pigmented skin to the depigmented areas and are only suitable for patients with stable vitiligo. It has been proven that suspending melanocytes in the patient’s own serum (plasma in the blood) can improve the effectiveness of the transplant (access the entire article here ).

Another new procedure called ReCell involves taking a sample of normal skin, separating out the skin cells, and spraying them onto the vitiligo patches (access the entire article here). Studies comparing Recell with conventional transplantation have shown varying degrees of repigmentation, but it is not widely available in the UK (access the entire article here ).

What are effective topical treatments and light therapies for vitiligo?

Creams or ointments, known as topical immunomodulators, are usually the first line of treatment for vitiligo. Topical tacrolimus and pimecrolimus have been found to be effective for localised vitiligo. Targeted narrow-band ultraviolet B (UVB) light treatment using the Excimer laser is also known to be effective, but not widely available. Other lasers such as the Q-switched ruby laser have been shown to induce depigmentation more quickly, but with more discomfort.

To learn more about effective topical treatments and light therapies for vitiligo you can find the full articles below:

  • Comparative Therapeutic Evaluation of Different Topicals and Narrow Band Ultraviolet B Therapy
  • Pimecrolimus: a new choice in the treatment of vitiligo?
  • Laser for treating vitiligo: a randomized study
  • Treatment of vitiligo: advantages and disadvantages, indications for use and outcomes

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Temprian Therapeutics: developing a gene-based treatment for vitiligo

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Correction 06 July 2020 : An earlier version of this profile gave the wrong specialty for Caroline Le Poole and the wrong campus for Northwestern University.

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Updates and new medical treatments for vitiligo (Review)


  • 1 Department of Dermatology, Faculty of Medicine and University Hospital 'Dr. José Eleuterio González', Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Monterrey, Nuevo León 64460, México.
  • 2 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and University Hospital 'Dr. José Eleuterio González', Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Monterrey, Nuevo León 64460, México.
  • 3 Department of Research, Faculty of Medicine Saltillo Unit, Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila, Saltillo 25000, México.
  • 4 Department of Dermatology and Allergology and Skin Cancer Center, Städtisches Klinikum Dresden, D-01067 Dresden, Germany.
  • 5 Department of Dermatology and Venereology, University of Rome G. Marconi, I-00193 Rome, Italy.
  • 6 Department of Dermatology and Communicable Diseases, First Medical State University of Moscow I. M. Sechenev Ministry of Health, Moscow 119991, Russia.
  • PMID: 34093753
  • PMCID: PMC8170669
  • DOI: 10.3892/etm.2021.10229

Vitiligo is a multifactorial disease characterized by the loss of skin pigment, which results in achromic macules and patches. There are currently several medical treatments available, which aim to arrest progression and induce skin repigmentation. These treatments alone or combined have exhibited varying degrees of pigmentation, and the majority are safe and effective. All therapies for vitiligo are limited, and no known treatment can consistently produce repigmentation in all patients. Individualized treatment is appropriate according to the location, clinical presentation and the presence of disease activity. The present review summarizes the medical treatments available for vitiligo: Systemic and topic pharmacological therapies, physical and depigmentation treatments. Several treatments are still underway and have not yet been approved. However, due to the promising preliminary results, these are also mentioned in the present review.

Keywords: combined modality therapy; immunosuppressive agents; phototherapy; skin lightening preparations; therapy; vitiligo.

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Alternative medicine, coping and support, preparing for your appointment.

Your health care provider will ask about your medical history and examine your skin, possibly with a special lamp. The evaluation might also include a skin biopsy and blood tests.

More Information

  • Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Skin biopsy

The choice of treatment depends on your age, how much skin is involved and where, how quickly the disease is progressing, and how it's affecting your life.

Medications and light-based therapies are available to help restore skin color or even out skin tone, though results vary and are unpredictable. And some treatments have serious side effects. So your health care provider might suggest that you first try changing the appearance of your skin by applying a self-tanning product or makeup.

If you and your health care provider decide to treat your condition with a drug, surgery or therapy, the process may take many months to judge its effectiveness. And you may have to try more than one approach or a combination of approaches before you find the treatment that works best for you.

Even if treatment is successful for a while, the results may not last or new patches may appear. Your health care provider might recommend a medication applied to the skin as maintenance therapy to help prevent relapse.


No drug can stop the process of vitiligo — the loss of pigment cells (melanocytes). But some drugs, used alone, in combination or with light therapy, can help restore some color.

Drugs that control inflammation. Applying a corticosteroid cream to affected skin might return color. This is most effective when vitiligo is still in its early stages. This type of cream is effective and easy to use, but you might not see changes in your skin's color for several months. Possible side effects include skin thinning or the appearance of streaks or lines on your skin.

Milder forms of the drug may be prescribed for children and for people who have large areas of discolored skin.

Corticosteroid pills or injections might be an option for people whose condition is progressing rapidly.

  • Medications that affect the immune system. Calcineurin inhibitor ointments, such as tacrolimus (Protopic) or pimecrolimus (Elidel) might be effective for people with small areas of depigmentation, especially on the face and neck. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned about a possible link between these drugs and lymphoma and skin cancer.

Light therapy. Phototherapy with narrow band ultraviolet B (UVB) has been shown to stop or slow the progression of active vitiligo. It might be more effective when used with corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors. You'll need therapy two to three times a week. It could take 1 to 3 months before you notice any change, and it could take 6 months or longer to get the full effect.

Given the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning regarding possible risk of skin cancer with use of calcineurin inhibitors, talk with your health care provider about the risks and benefits of using these drugs with phototherapy.

For people who can't go to a clinic for treatment, smaller portable or handheld devices for narrow band ultraviolet B therapy are available for home use. Talk with your health care provider about this option as well if needed.

Possible side effects of narrow band ultraviolet B therapy include redness, itching and burning. These side effects usually clear up within a few hours after treatment.

  • Combining psoralen and light therapy. This treatment combines a plant-derived substance called psoralen with light therapy (photochemotherapy) to return color to the light patches. After you take psoralen by mouth or apply it to the affected skin, you're exposed to ultraviolet A (UVA) light. This approach, while effective, is more difficult to administer and has been replaced in many practices by narrow band ultraviolet B (UVB) therapy.

Removing the remaining color (depigmentation). This therapy may be an option if your vitiligo is widespread and other treatments haven't worked. A depigmenting agent is applied to unaffected areas of skin. This gradually lightens the skin so that it blends with the discolored areas. The therapy is done once or twice a day for nine months or longer.

Side effects can include redness, swelling, itching and very dry skin. Depigmentation is permanent.

If light therapy and medications haven't worked, some people with stable disease may be candidates for surgery. The following techniques are intended to even out skin tone by restoring color:

Skin grafting. In this procedure, your doctor transfers very small sections of your healthy, pigmented skin to areas that have lost pigment. This procedure is sometimes used if you have small patches of vitiligo.

Possible risks include infection, scarring, a cobblestone appearance, spotty color and failure of the area to recolor.

Blister grafting. In this procedure, your doctor creates blisters on your pigmented skin, usually with suction, and then transplants the tops of the blisters to discolored skin.

Possible risks include scarring, a cobblestone appearance and failure of the area to recolor. And the skin damage caused by suctioning may trigger another patch of vitiligo.

Cellular suspension transplant. In this procedure, your doctor takes some tissue on your pigmented skin, puts the cells into a solution and then transplants them onto the prepared affected area. The results of this repigmentation procedure start showing up within four weeks.

Possible risks include scarring, infection and uneven skin tone.

Potential future treatments

Treatments being studied include:

  • A drug to stimulate color-producing cells (melanocytes). Called afamelanotide, this potential treatment is implanted under the skin to promote the growth of melanocytes.
  • A drug that helps control melanoctyes. Prostaglandin E2 is being tested as a way to restore skin color in people with vitiligo that isn't widespread or spreading. It's applied to the skin as a gel.

If you have vitiligo, the following self-care tactics may help you care for your skin and improve its appearance:

Protect your skin from the sun and artificial sources of UV light. Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or sweating.

You can also seek shade and wear clothing that shields your skin from the sun. Don't use tanning beds and sunlamps.

Protecting your skin from the sun helps prevent sunburn of the discolored skin. Sunscreen also minimizes tanning, which accentuates the vitiligo patches.

  • Conceal affected skin. Makeup and self-tanning products can help minimize the differences in skin color. You may need to try several brands of makeup or self-tanners to find one that blends well with your normal skin tone. The coloring of self-tanning products doesn't wash off, but it gradually fades over several days. If you use a self-tanner, select one that contains dihydroxyacetone, as it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Don't get a tattoo. Damage to your skin, such as that caused by a tattoo, may cause a new patch of vitiligo to appear within two weeks.

Limited studies show that the herb Ginkgo biloba may return skin color in people with vitiligo. Other small studies show that alpha-lipoic acid, folic acid, vitamin C and vitamin B-12 plus phototherapy may restore skin color for some people.

As with any nonprescription treatment, check with your health care provider before trying alternative medicine therapies to be sure they won't interfere with other treatments you're using.

The change in your appearance caused by vitiligo might make you feel stressed, self-conscious or sad. These self-care approaches can help you cope with vitiligo:

  • Make a good connection. Find a doctor who knows a lot about the condition. A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in the care of skin.
  • Learn about your condition. Find out as much as you can about vitiligo and your treatment options so that you can help decide what steps to take.
  • Communicate your feelings. Let your health care provider know if you're feeling depressed. You might benefit from a referral to a mental health provider who specializes in helping people with depression.
  • Talk with others. Ask your health care provider about psychotherapy or support groups in your area for people with vitiligo.
  • Confide in loved ones. Seek understanding and support from your family and friends.

You're likely to start by seeing your primary care provider. You may then be referred to a specialist in skin disorders (dermatologist).

Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.

What you can do

  • Review your family medical history. Find out if anyone in your family has vitiligo, a thyroid condition or a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues in the body (autoimmune disease).
  • List relevant personal information, such as recent major stressful events, life changes, sunburns and rashes.
  • List any medications, vitamins and supplements you're taking, including doses.
  • Make note of questions you'd like to ask your health care provider, which will help you make the most of your limited time together.

Some basic questions to consider include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • What are other possible causes?
  • Do I need any tests?
  • Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
  • What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
  • What side effects can I expect from treatment?
  • Can I do anything to help, such as avoid the sun at certain times or wear a specific sunscreen?
  • Can you recommend a product to conceal the discolored patches?
  • Do you have brochures or other printed material I can take home? What websites do you recommend?

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider is likely to ask you a few questions, such as:

  • When did you begin noticing light patches on your skin?
  • Did you have a sunburn or skin rash before you noticed the patches?
  • Are you sensitive to the sun?
  • Do the discolored patches itch or cause any other symptoms?
  • Have you ever had this type of skin change before?
  • Does anyone in your family have vitiligo, a thyroid condition or an autoimmune disease?
  • What is your occupation, and what are your hobbies? Are you exposed to any harsh chemicals in either?
  • Does this condition affect your quality of life?
  • Are you taking any medications or supplements?

What you can do in the meantime

While you're waiting to see your health care provider, limit your sun exposure and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. If you're feeling self-conscious about the changes in your skin, use makeup or a self-tanning product to cover the affected areas.

Nov 10, 2022

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  • Lee JH, et al. Treatment outcomes of topical calcineurin inhibitor therapy for patients with vitiligo: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatology. 2019; doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.0696.
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  • Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Jan. 20, 2020.
  • Symptoms & causes
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  • Vitiligo diagnosis & treatment

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Vitiligo: A Patch on Skin and the Mind

  • First Online: 25 April 2024

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any new research on vitiligo

  • Jung Min Bae 4 &
  • Hyun Jeong Ju 4  

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Vitiligo, an autoimmune pigmentary disorder characterized by the destruction of melanocytes, has a significant impact on patients’ lives beyond the physical manifestations. Vitiligo has a high psychosocial burden and is associated with a variety of autoimmune comorbidities. This chapter provides a comprehensive review of the etiology, classification, and treatment of vitiligo. Vitiligo typically requires an early intervention and combination of traditional and modern therapies, including phototherapy, laser treatments, topical agents, systemic agents, and surgical options. A detailed analysis of the type of vitiligo and response to treatment addressing both the physical and psychological aspects of the disease can provide a holistic management strategy, aiming to improve the patient’s quality of life.

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Bae, J.M., Ju, H.J. (2024). Vitiligo: A Patch on Skin and the Mind. In: Gupta, S., Mehta, N., Dudani, P. (eds) Critical Thinking in Contemporary Dermatology: Cognitive Essays. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-97-0411-8_13

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  13. AAD: Long-term improvement seen with ruxolitinib in vitiligo

    by Elana Gotkine. For patients with nonsegmental vitiligo, continued improvement in seen during a long-term extension of ruxolitinib treatment, according to study presented at the annual meeting ...

  14. Treatment update for vitiligo based on autoimmune inhibition and

    Vitiligo is a common autoimmune-related depigmenting disease resulting from epidermal melanocyte loss. It is characterized by white patches in the skin or mucous, affecting around 0.1-2% of the ... Treatment update for vitiligo based on autoimmune inhibition and melanocyte protection: Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets: Vol 27 , No 3 - Get ...

  15. Estimating the burden of vitiligo: a systematic review and modelling

    This study highlights the need for standardised epidemiological data collection globally to inform public health policies and improve vitiligo diagnosis and management. Emphasis on the impact on individuals with darker skin tones is crucial to reducing stigma and improving quality of life. Furthermore, our study highlights the need to conduct more research in regions and populations that have ...

  16. Phase 3 RUX Update

    Phase 3 vitiligo clinical trial results to test topical ruxolitinib as a new treatment. I've recently received many requests for an update on the new ruxolitinib cream to treat vitiligo. To remind everyone, we initially reported that oral ruxolitinib, a Janus Kinase inhibitor initially approved to treat a type of blood cancer, reversed ...

  17. Vitiligo

    Medications. No drug can stop the process of vitiligo — the loss of pigment cells (melanocytes). But some drugs, used alone, in combination or with light therapy, can help restore some color. Drugs that control inflammation. Applying a corticosteroid cream to affected skin might return color.

  18. Vitiligo: A Patch on Skin and the Mind

    Vitiligo is a pigmentary disorder characterized by well-demarcated chalky-white patches of variable size on any part of the body, affecting 0.5-2.0% of general populations worldwide [].The disease was first described prior to 1500 B.C. in the earliest Vedic and Egyptian literatures [].Ancient texts referred to white patches on the skin as leprosy; the confusion triggered social stigma from ...

  19. A New Era of Vitiligo Research and Treatment

    A New Era of Vitiligo Research and Treatment. This is a very exciting phase of vitiligo research in which vitiligo is being tackled by multipronged attacks in the form of advancement in basic research, genetics and treatment including surgical management. In order to achieve the ultimate goal of total stability and complete repigmentation ...