After someone famous dies, we often become more interested in the diseases they had which when they were alive--we paid little attention. Michael Jackson revealed that he had lupus and vitiligo many years ago, but the news was not played up to the public.
The condition of his skin was often reported on but not in a way that helped any of us understand what he or others with this condition might be going through.
Vitiligo is a skin condition where the cells that make skin color, the melanocytes, are destroyed so that white patches appear. It frequently occurs on hands, faces and neck areas. Vitiligo may occur in conjunction with other autoimmune disease like lupus and appears to have a genetic disposition as it can run in families.
Medical treatments for vitiligo include:
1. Topical steroids: Creams containing cortisone, similar to the anti-inflammatory hormone produced in the body, may need to be applied for months before results can be seen. Cortisone creams are not as effective as PUVA (see below) but are the safest drugs to use so are appropriate for children.
2. PUVA: Is thought to be the most effective treatment for vitiligo but is time consuming. A drug called psoralen is spread on the depigmented area or taken orally before exposing the area to UVA light. Treatments are given 2 or 3 times a week in a doctor’s office. Sunburn is the greatest risk after these exposures so sunscreen must always be worn. Oral psoralen phototherapy is not recommended for children under 10. (if you have a history of lupus like Michael Jackson was reported to have, PUVA therapy is also not recommended.)
3. Depigmentation: For people who have vitiglio on over 50% of their body, depigmentation may be considered. Patients apply a hydroquinone cream twice a day to the pigmented areas until it matches the whitened areas of their skin. The result is usually permanent and the person will be exceptionally sensitive to the sun and always require sunscreen for protection.
Surgical treatments for vitiligo are only considered if medical therapy is unsuccessful.