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Treatments for vitiligo are most effective when started early, with those experiencing later onset and less affected skin surface area receiving treatment sooner. Several demographic and disease-related factors are associated with treatment delays in vitiligo patients. 

  • Treatments for vitiligo are most effective when delivered early in the disease course.
  • People with vitiligo onset after age 21 receive more timely treatment.
  • People with less skin surface area affected by vitiligo receive faster treatment.
  • Dermatologist-diagnosed patients receive treatment more quickly than primary-care-diagnosed patients.

Vitiligo is a chronic, progressive autoimmune disorder of the skin resulting in patches of depigmentation. People with vitiligo often report stigmatization by society and a reduced quality of life. Therapies are most effective when implemented during the early stages of disease, but barriers in the healthcare system delay patients from receiving timely treatment.

Factors Contributing to Delayed Treatment

In a chart review conducted at the University of Texas at Austin between 2017 and 2020, researchers identified race and severity of vitiligo as factors that may contribute to delayed treatment. A sample of 102 consecutive patients with vitiligo was gathered, and data was collected through self-reported standardized questionnaires and medical chart review. 

Longer Delays Noted for Certain Patients 

Patients of color and patients presenting with a greater lesioned surface area experienced the longest delays to treatment. These trends point to the potential for disparities in vitiligo treatment to widen, given that people of color with extended vitiligo lesions experience more stigmatization and lower quality of life than White patients.

Age of Onset Associated Is With Treatment Delays

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Patients who noticed their first vitiligo lesion after age 21 experienced shorter delays to treatment. This may be due to a higher motivation to seek treatment. Individuals were less likely to experience delayed treatment if they were diagnosed by a dermatologist, suggesting that primary care physicians are not making swift dermatological recommendations.

Need for More Education About Vitiligo for Healthcare Providers Is Indicated

The data from this retrospective study suggest that healthcare providers must be better educated about vitiligo to ensure their patients receive timely care. Healthcare behaviors associated with these vitiligo characteristics and patient demographics must be investigated further to delineate whether delays to treatment are due to healthcare oversight or patients’ resistance to seek treatment.

Source: 

Patel, K., Lopes, F., Sebastian, K. R., Jambusaria, A., & Ahmed, A. M. (2022). Assessing Treatment Delays for Vitiligo Patients: A Retrospective Chart Review. Cutis, 109(6), 327-329. https://doi.org/10.12788/cutis.0531