May 26, 2007

Vitiligo

I have been diagnosed with Vitiligo. I'm not happy about it.


What is vitiligo you ask? It is a skin disease whereby I am losing pigment. My aunt and a couple of cousins have it as well, though a genetic causal link has not been established. 40% of people who get vitiligo will have a relative with it.
My vitiligo is bilateral, under both arms, in spots. It may stay this way for a long time; it may spread to all or part of the rest of my body; it may go away spontaneously though that is a rare occurence. Yes, this is what Michael Jackson also has.
Treatment options vary; there is no cure; but I am applying a medicine called Protopic and am leaning towards going to get excimer laser treatment. Protopic is an immunomodulator.
Some doctors believe vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder, whereby the immune system attacks and kills melanocyte cells in the skin, causing loss of pigment. Protopic reduces the strength of the immune system in the areas it is applied, therefore allowing the body to repopulate the skin with melanocytes. Results usually take 3-6 months to show; I apply it twice daily. I haven't seen any results but I'm only on my third week.
The excimer laser is a laserbeam of focused UVB light. Some patients respond well to UVB light, and have home light boxes that they stand in (prescription only - your neighborhood tanning bed won't help). However my father had skin cancer so it makes no sense to expose my entire body to UVB. The laser will target just the spots under my arms. When I start this treatment I will have to go to the dermatologist 2-3 times a week for a quick session with the laser. The laser treatment could continue a few months to get results. I say 'when'. It's still 'if'.
2 problems with the laser - having to go to the doctor so many times a week, and fear that insurance will not pay for it. It is expensive.

Insurance companies sometimes argue that vitiligo is cosmetic and thus not a medical condition. Tell it to someone who has vitligo all over their body. My cousin has it on her arms, torso and neck and told me she has had people ask her if she was a burn victim. There is also the fact that melanin-free skin will sunburn very easily.

OK there are worse things to have, but that doesn't make this cool.

Anyway, that's my rant o' the day. It's actually June 21st as I type the rest of this (I typed the first sentence in May as you can see at the top of this post). Blogger needs better managment of dates and times.