People with the autoimmune skin condition vitiligo have depigmented spots on their skin. This is especially noticeable in individuals with a darker skin color.
Until recently, there have been few, if any, effective treatments for vitiligo. Dermatologists at the Henry Ford hospital in Detroit report in JAMA Dermatology that they have had success achieving re-pigmentation of skin affected by vitiligo.
They administered a medication called afamelanotide which encourages skin pigment and then treated patients with narrow-band ultraviolet B phototherapy. The volunteers received two to three phototherapy sessions a week for six months.
In a comparison with phototherapy alone, combination therapy worked faster and was more effective. Nearly 50 percent of those treated with this dual approach had satisfactory re-pigmentation at six months.
Vitiligo is not life-threatening, but many people find the light splotches on their skin are distressing or embarrassing. Having a more effective treatment is certainly good news for them. It is not clear from the study, however, whether this treatment offers lasting repigmentation, or if ongoing treatment is needed to maintain it.