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My Experience Being Treated for Vitiligo

Posted on December 23, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Article written by
Natalie Ambersley

Part of my vitiligo journey has involved years of unsuccessful treatments, starting at a young age.

As a child, I recall many trips to the hospital, which often felt like a “day out” because I was too young to understand why I was going. I have very fond memories of arriving at Great Ormond Street Hospital, a famous children’s hospital in London, and playing with the other children in the reception room as we all waited to be treated for various conditions.

My earliest memory of treatment involved topical steroids, which had been prescribed to me when I was 5 years old. I had a tube of cream for my face and another for my body. Every morning and night without fail, my mum would apply the cream onto my patches until I was old enough to do it myself.

I started to understand the reasons behind being treated when I was about 9. It was then I realized there was something wrong with my skin and that it needed “fixing.” My parents remained very close to my dermatologist, because they wanted to know about any new treatments that might help me. Looking back, I sense there was desperation in trying to find a cure because they were worried about how I might be treated as I got older.

I tried everything that was available — tablets, new creams that were in the trial stages, homeopathy, and changing my diet — but nothing seemed to work. Every time I tried a new type of treatment, we would build up our hopes, only to be left disappointed by the lack of results or change in my skin some months later.

By the time I was 12 years old, I’d grown frustrated with the constant hospital trips that didn’t lead to positive results. It seemed pointless, so I decided that I didn’t want to go back and that I would allow my skin to remain as it was. If it got worse, so be it.

The Decision To Try Light Treatment

Fast forward a number of years to 2013, and my skin was at its worst. I was 70 percent white and saddened by how much vitiligo had been controlling my life.

Just after my 30th birthday, I decided that I wanted to try UVB light treatment as a final attempt to bring the color back to my skin. With social media connecting communities and allowing people to share experiences, I was able to learn about what this type of treatment entailed through speaking with others. It didn’t take long for me to decide that I wanted to give it a go, and in 2014 I returned to the hospital several times per week for treatment sessions.

UVB light treatment helped me significantly. For 201 hospital visits over 13 months, I stood inside a full-length therapy cabinet, which, when switched on, would provide 360-degree UV light coverage. After just three months of being treated, my pigment started returning at an alarmingly quick rate. Seeing pigment return to my face, arms, and legs gave me a level of confidence I’d never had. I felt a sense of normalcy in my skin. Within a few months, I was enjoying the freedom to wear swimwear, T-shirts, and shorts without feeling anxious.

As I reflect on the years I spent being treated, there is one thing that makes me feel guilty: the fact I was putting pressure on my skin because I was worried about the opinions of others. Knowing this now has taught me that the only person I should be having treatment for is me, and not because of a desire to be accepted by others.

For me, finding a good treatment was ultimately achieved because I wanted to escape the stares from others, the inquisitive questions that sometimes hurt, and those who choose to judge people because of the way they look.

I don’t regret the time I spent having UVB light treatment because at the time it felt right. But what it has made me realize is that treatment is no longer for me, and whatever my skin decides to do in the future, it does so with my acceptance. I have learned to self-love, and I’ve accepted the fact that my skin no longer needs “fixing.”

My Perspective articles discuss vitiligo from a specific point of view. My Perspective articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyVitiligoTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyVitiligoTeam content isn't intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Natalie Ambersley is from London and has been living with vitiligo since she was 3 years old. Learn more about her here.

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