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Keywords:

  • 88% phenol;
  • cryotherapy;
  • depigmentation therapies;
  • diphencyprone;
  • imatinib;
  • imiquimod;
  • lasers;
  • monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone;
  • monomethylether of hydroquinone

Abstract

If vitiligo involves most of the body, it might be easier to depigment the normal remaining skin rather than to attempt repigmentation. We reviewed the literature to date regarding available therapies for depigmenting the normal skin in vitiligo universalis. Our review revealed that the threshold regarding what percentage of body surface area qualifies as depigmentation is variable among practitioners. Monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone (MBEH) is the most widely used depigmenting agent and has few side-effects. Tretinoin in combination with MBEH is able to speed depigmentation of the skin. Monomethylether of hydroquinone has also been used successfully for depigmentation. Eighty-eight per cent phenol is also effective in depigmenting the skin but its application on large areas is toxic for liver and kidney. Different types of lasers are also available to destruct the melanocytes selectively, but this technique can be painful and expensive. Cryotherapy is a cheap depigmenting therapy but, because of scarring risk, it should only be used by experienced dermatologists. No trials have compared the efficacy of the above-mentioned well-established depigmentation agents/techniques. Certain drugs such as imatinib, imiquimod and diphencyprone, which are used to treat other diseases, caused depigmentation as a side-effect. Some depigmentation agents used for branding cattle can also serve as topical depigmentation agents. In conclusion, comparative clinical trials are needed to compare the efficacy of various depigmentation agents/techniques. In particular, topical imatinib, imiquimod and diphencyprone may be considered as potential depigmenting agents, which require further investigation. This review revealed that MBEH is safe and effective depigmenting agent.