There are many autoimmune diseases out there. Some affect nerves and others affect our stomachs. Generally, many of these autoimmune diseases can go unnoticed as they don’t leave visible marks. But one in particular is hard to miss.
What is Vitiligo?
The condition is called vitiligo and it is the discoloration of pigments on the skin. It can present as small spots or large discolored areas all over a person’s body. It occurs when the cells that create melanin stop functioning or die.The disease does not discriminate when it comes to race or gender.
Current treatment of vitiligo can cause side effects, and often many treatments don’t work. But researchers have now uncovered that a medication to treat another autoimmune disease could help sufferers of vitiligo.
Arthritis medication to slow down progression of vitiligo
Research has revealed an arthritis medication might have another helpful benefit. Published in JAMA Dermatology, researchers found treating vitiligo was successful using tofacitinib – a rheumatoid arthritis medication.
Previously, researchers found this form of rheumatoid arthritis medication was successful in treating hair loss caused by alopecia areata – another autoimmune disease.
Researchers studied a 53-year-old woman who had vitiligo on her face, hands and body. In the early stages of the study the woman received five milligrams of tofacitinib every other day, and worked her way up to the same dose every day after the first three weeks.
After two months researchers noticed the woman gained back partial pigmentation. After five months, the patches on her face and hands – areas she was most concerned about – were nearly gone.
Typically, the dosage the woman received was half of what someone would take if they were treating rheumatoid arthritis. And the woman did not report any adverse side effects.
This was a very small study, but it already reveals so much promise in the area of helping those with vitiligo.
Living with vitiligo
Since vitiligo leaves very distinct marks over one’s body it can be quite embarrassing for the individual. Here are some tips to keep in mind when living with vitiligo:
- You need to be mindful of the sun and protect yourself when you head out. The white patches are much more vulnerable to the sun’s effects.
- Don’t get a tattoo. The skin is already damaged and white patches could develop over it.
- To feel more confident you can use make-up and self-tanners on affected skin. Remember to check the ingredients to ensure you won’t have a reaction. Always read the labels.
Vitiligo can greatly affect one’s sense of self so people who have it may seek counseling or therapy as means to cope. Reach out to others, share success stories and seek support for help living with the disease.
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