'My experience of narrowband UVB has been incredible' 

Paul Johnson, 37, has had vitiligo for almost 25 years. He tells his story.

"I started noticing the white patches in my early teens. They progessed relatively slowly to my elbows, knees, hands and feet by the age of 18.

"After that, they spread rather rapidly. By 21, I had plenty of smaller patches across my face, trunk and legs. By 30, I had lost the tanned colour across about 80% of my body, which is quite interesting when you have a Maltese ancestry. That’s the way things stayed for years, until recently.

"In summer last year, I noticed a small amount of randomly scattered repigmentation on my arms. Nothing to get excited about really, as I often got small patches of colour during the peak summer months. But by November, when the sun and heat of summer had gone, the little repigmented spots were still there.

"I was intrigued and happy about this new development. Like many people, I have managed to live with vitiligo for years now. But I can’t deny that it remains in the back of my mind almost continuously. It has affected my confidence. Physically, I haven't been totally at ease with myself.

"I thought that if I could have some additional treatment it may help the body to repigment.

"I heard about many treatments, but the one that caught my eye was narrowband UVB. The Vitiligo Society has a list of all the UK hospitals that offer this treatment. The nearest was two miles from home. I saw my GP and requested a referral to a consultant dermatologist.

"The consultant was positive. After a discussion and examination, she put me forward for a three-month trial.

"As I drove to the hospital for the first appointment, I was worried about what the treatment was like. But my experience has been no problem.

"Typically, each visit takes about 20 minutes from arriving at the hospital to leaving. The machine is a large rectangular ‘box’ where you stand for treatment. Each of the walls and door are covered in light tubes that switch on for the time period set by the hospital staff.

"I was started on a very low dose of around 20 seconds, two or three times a week. This was increased slowly as the treatment progressed, making sure that I did not burn in between treatments. Generally, I go slightly pink, which is about the right amount of light exposure to get the skin working.

"It took six weeks before I achieved any repigmentation. It happened first on my face, which I believe is the most susceptible part of the body. Small dots of brown appeared on my forehead. Slowly other parts of the body showed similar signs of repigmentation.

"After a follow-up visit to the consultant in April, it was agreed that I should continue with the treatment as it was having an impact.

"In May, all areas of my trunk and legs showed repigmentation from almost all the hair follicles. It looks like somebody has covered my white patches with dots of brown felt pen.

"My hands and feet have not really shown much repigmentation yet. They are the hardest part of the body to repigment. The dots of brown on my face are starting to join up, and my face has gone from 80% white to 90% brown.

"I knew the treatment was working when the window cleaner asked me if I had a nice holiday. I can’t tell you how uplifting it is when people comment on how brown I look.

"Although no results can be guaranteed, my own experience with narrowband UVB has been incredible so far."

Page last reviewed: 03/10/2014

Next review due: 03/10/2016