Vitiligo Treatment: Targeted UV Phototherapy
Targeted UV phototherapy is a safer, more effective way to treat vitiligo patients.
"Targeted” refers to administration of UV light, via excimer laser or elemental gas lamp to a small area of vitiligo skin typically less than 4 cm². The light administered is typically in the UVB range (between 280nm and 320nm), but may be in the UVA range as well. The devices typically consist of a wand or other handheld device connected to a stationary base console. Due to the small treatment area size of the handheld, many dosages are administered to the vitiligo skin, with each dosage lasting several seconds.
Before treatment, the patient's sensitivity to UV light is determined. The minimal amount of UV light required to cause slight reddening of the patient's skin is called Minimal Erythemic Dosage, or MED. Non-targeted UV phototherapy affects healthy and unhealthy skin alike, and is administered in dosages less than the patient's MED.
Because targeted UV phototherapy is only administered to vitiligo skin, healthcare providers can administer higher UV dosages. Clinical studies suggest higher UV dosages produce more rapid onset of results. Studies also suggest that the overall exposure to UV is less than in non-targeted, and so targeted is a safer alternative. While non-targeted phototherapy has been in use for decades, targeted phototherapy is a much more recent advancement in the treatment of vitiligo. It can only be administered by a healthcare provider and is not available for home use.
UV light therapy, and especially targeted NB-UVB light therapy, represent an intense body of ongoing research. NB-UVB application in conjunction with several treatments including topical therapy, various vitamin and antioxidant substances, and systemic drugs, has been conducted and continues to undergo evaluation.
Many health insurance providers cover both targeted and non-targeted UV phototherapy. The patient should always make certain their healthcare provider is aware of how their disease is impacted by their Quality of Life (QoL).