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Before his tragic death, some people thought Michael Jackson tried to lighten his skin. In reality, the star battled with vitiligo, an autoimmune condition in which the skin loses melanin, the pigment that determines the color of skin, hair and eyes. If the cells that produce melanin die or no longer form melanin, slowly growing white patches of irregular shapes appear on the skin. According to Dr. Joshua Fox, founder and director of Advanced Dermatology and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery, “vitiligo affects all races, but it is especially devastating for persons whose normal skin color is brown or black because the whiteness is accentuated by the patients’ contrasting color.”
Dr. Fox adds, “similar to vitiligo, psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the country, affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans annually.” This non-contagious condition often appears on the skin as red, scaly patches that itch and bleed. Up to 30 percent of people with the disease develop psoriatic arthritis, and recent studies indicate that patients are also at increased risk for other associated health conditions, including heart disease, heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and depression.
Psoriasis is caused by an overactive immune system that speeds up the growth cycle of the skin. In normal skin, new cells surface about once a month, but with psoriasis, new cells surface in just three to five days. These cells build up into thick patches that have a silvery, flaking crust. Stress is a common trigger of psoriasis, along with diet, medications, cuts, scrapes, and allergies. Psoriasis frequently occurs between the ages of 15 and 35, but it can appear at any time. Treatments ranging from topical to systemic can clear the symptoms but it is incurable.
Today, using a specific laser that emits a narrow 308 wavelength of ultraviolet light B (UVB) is an effective treatment for psoriasis and vitiligo. There are two types of UVB treatment, broadband and narrowband, which release a smaller range of ultraviolet light that penetrates the skin and slows the growth of affected skin cells “Several studies indicate that narrow-band UVB clears psoriasis and vitiligo faster and produces longer remissions with less risk,” says Christopher Byrne, MPAS, RPA-C of New York-based Advanced Dermatology and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery. “It may also be effective with fewer treatments per week than broadband.”
The Excimer laser, approved by the FDA in 2000, emits a high-intensity beam of UVB. According to research presented at the spring conference of the American Academy of Dermatology, this narrowband device is used in vitiligo patients with less extensive disease on the face. One major advantage says Byrne is that you only treat the affected areas and the unaffected areas are spared.
“Narrowband UVB therapy is widely viewed as safer and more effective than broadband UVB therapy,” says Dr. Joshua Fox, founder and director of Advanced Dermatology and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery. “Because the focused laser beam avoids unaffected skin, much higher doses of UVB can be administered.” Until Excimer therapy arrived, certain areas like the scalp, palms and soles, were often resistant to treatment.
“Millions of people worldwide suffer with vitiligo and psoriasis,” adds Dr. Fox. “The good news is that with newer lasers therapies, people are seeing more relief today than ever before and we are hopeful for continued developments in new therapies for even better results for patients.”
Joshua Fox, M.D., F.A.A.D., founder and director of New York & New Jersey-based Advanced Dermatology, PC & the Center for Laser & Cosmetic Surgery.
Christopher Byrne, MPAS, RPA-C Physician Assistant with Advanced Dermatology and the Center for Laser & Cosmetic Surgery.
Advanced Dermatology P.C., the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is a premier medical practice with eight locations throughout Long Island, Queens, Manhattan and New Jersey. The practice provides cutting edge medical, laser & cosmetic dermatology and plastic surgery services. Each board certified physician in the practice is recognized as an expert in his or her specialty. Collectively they are active lecturers, media guests, authors and researchers. advanceddermatologypc.com