(MENAFN - The Peninsula) By Fazeena Saleem I The Peninsula
With about 500 patients with vitiligo seen per year, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) provides several new treatment methods and services to control the condition.
It includes phototherapy, new oral medications, advanced research and partnerships with international institutions, according to Professor Martin Steinhoff, Chair at the Department of Dermatology and Venerology at HMC.
'Vitiligo is one of the more complicated diseases for the dermatology, because of the outer immune mechanism. At the moment we offer new therapies, oral medications and other services like phototherapy to block the process of vitiligo and have less side effects, said Professor Steinhoff speaking to media recently.
Vitiligo is caused by the lack of a pigment called melanin in the skin. Melanin is produced by skin cells called melanocytes, and it gives skin its colour. In vitiligo, there aren't enough working melanocytes to produce enough melanin in skin. This causes white patches to develop on skin or hair. It's not clear exactly why the melanocytes disappear from the affected areas of skin.
'A research is underway at the HMC to find how to bring back the cells that produce pigment. As a result if the research we hope we can do that in the future, said Professor Steinhoff.
At present, he Department of Dermatology and Venerology at HMC have both phototherapy and excimer laser for vitiligo treatment.
'We use excimer when there is less than 10 percent involvement. These services are available, including excimer where only the spot involved is treated and phototherapy machine where the patient enters the machine and get exposed entirely, said Professor Steinhoff.
HMC is also working with University of Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana regarding skin transplantations for patients with vitiligo. Vitiligo can be treated with surgical approaches, like skin or cellular grafts. The idea is that the top skin layer of the white spots is removed, and healthy pigment cells (melanocytes) from another part of the body are transplanted there. After a few months, the transplanted melanocytes start working to make pigment, which deposits in the surrounding skin and the white spots disappear, explained Professor Steinhoff.
'This is one of the most successful methods and the success is about 60 to 80 % successful. We work together with a centre in University of Purdue and when the usual treatment is not successful then the patients can get a skin transplantation, he said.
However, Professor Steinhoff insisted that it is essential for patients with vitiligo to get early diagnosis and treatment for better results.
'Most times it becomes difficult to intervene, because often patients come to the clinic at the late stage of the disease. They come when the skin is already white and the immune system has killed the pigment cells and it makes the treatment difficult, he added.
Dermatology and Venereology Department at HMC currently runs 22 clinics including for many of skin conditions such as vitiligo, posraisis, eczema among others. These clinics situated at the Rumailah Hospital receive about 400 patients per day at and has one of the shortest waiting time at HMC.