Vitiligo: Phototherapy treatment

Vitiligo: Phototherapy treatment

Narrowband phototherapy has a high success rate for the treatment of vitiligo. Each session takes less than 5 minutes to perform and is covered by Medicare for eligible patients. Treatments are safe and effective in up to 80% of cases. Most vitiligo patients will notice re-pigmentation within 4-6 few weeks of phototherapy.


  • Narrowband UVB phototherapy is choice for the treatment of Vitiligo by consultant Dermatologists.
  • Treatments are effective in up to 80% of patients.
  • Re-pigmentation of the white patches in Vitiligo can be seen as early as 4 weeks of therapy.
  • Combination treatments; including topical prescription creams and phototherapy gives superior results.
  • UVB treatments are entirely covered by Medicare for eligible patients.
  • Phototherapy takes less than 5 minutes to perform.
  • Patients require to maintain a minimum of 2 sessions per week however 3 sessions is ideal.

Phototherapy delivers a filtered, metered and prescribed dose of ultraviolet B light. The dose of phototherapy is tailored according to your skin type and presenting skin condition. Ultraviolet light in the wavelength of 311 nanometers stimulates the sleeping pigment cells in your skin to start producing pigmentation again. Over time, the white patches of vitiligo can re-pigment.

Most patients will require at least 20-30 sessions as a trial. Re-pigmentation can be seen as early as one month of phototherapy treatments. A minimum of two sessions per week is recommended however 3 sessions is ideal. If you achieve re-pigmentation, phototherapy can be safely continued as maintenance therapy.

Phototherapy is an integral part of Westside Dermatology’s Skin Re-Pigmenting Program

More on Westside Dermatology’s Skin Re-Pigmenting Program

The average treatment takes less than 2 minutes to perform and is completely painless. The areas affected by vitiligo are exposed to a metered dose of ultraviolet B light, delivered in a phototherapy room. Treatments are discrete as only one patient is allowed in the room at any given time. The whole process is under the watchful eye of our phototherapy staff.

Phototherapy sessions are –

  • Quick
  • Painless
  • Safe
  • Discrete
  • Bulk billed (for eligible patients)
  • Effective
  • Easy

Narrowband phototherapy combined with topical prescription creams has the highest success rate of treating vitiligo. Our team has a success rate of 60-80% using this combination. In order to see if phototherapy is successful patients will need to commit to at least 20-30 sessions, over a course of 10-14 weeks.

Good prognosis for success include –

  • New lesions of vitiligo.
  • Vitiligo involving the face.
  • Dark coloured hairs within white patches.

Poor prognosis for treatment include –

  • Old lesions of vitiligo.
  • White hairs within white patches.
  • Lesions located on the lower limbs, hands or feet.

This program is designed to kick start skin re-colouring and re-pigmentation. Consultant Dermatologists use a combination of anti-inflammatory topical prescription creams combined with phototherapy over a 20 week timeframe. During this 20-week period patients will undertake between 40-60 phototherapy sessions. Over 80% of patients will achieve re-colouring of vitiligo patches with this program.

Please Note: Phototherapy sessions are bulk billed for eligible patients.

More on Westside Dermatology’s Skin Re-Pigmentaion Program

The most predictable aspect of vitiligo is the unpredictability of this condition. In most cases, a course of phototherapy sessions will halt or even reverse the progression of vitiligo. Unfortunately, in some cases of vitiligo will recur when phototherapy is ceased. It is not possible to predict this patient group. If re-pigmenting of your vitiligo patches is seen, we encourage patients to continue on phototherapy till complete re-pigmentation is seen. Phototherapy can also be continued for maintenance.

Phototherapy sessions are BULK BILLED for eligible patients.  If you hold a Medicare card with a current referral, there is no out of pocket expense for this treatment.

International patients who do not hold Medicare are charged at  $55 per session. A minimum of 25 sessions are needed. We encourage patients to check with their health insurance policy prior to undertaking phototherapy sessions. Quote item number 14050 to your medical insurance company.

Phototherapy for vitiligo patients is a very safe treatment with minimal side effects; provided this treatment is supervised by a specialist Dermatologists. Potential side effects include:

  • Short term sunburn in vitiligo patches. 10-15% of cases may have sunburn reaction that subsides within a few days. More common in patients who have sun exposure following phototherapy or during their phototherapy treatment course.
  • Itching following narrowband phototherapy. Seen in 2-3% of cases. This subsides within a few days.
  • Skin cancer poses no increase risks if a total of 350 treatments is monitored. Darker skin patients can undertake up to 700 treatments. It is encouraged that during your treatment that regular skin checks are performed by your treating Dermatologist.

Phototherapy is suitable for the majority of vitiligo patients however there are some exceptions to the rule.

Patients who can NOT have phototherapy for vitiligo include:

  • Patients who have a personal history of melanoma.
  • Patients who have a direct family history of melanoma.
  • Vitiligo patients who have associated sun sensitive conditions such as lupus.
  • Patients who can not undertake regular sessions – a minimum of two sessions per week is recommended.
  • We do not recommend photoherapy for children under the age of 8.

Phototherapy uses ultraviolet light and is not a laser light. Our practice policy is that we do not treat children under the age of 8 with phototherapy, due to the contraindications of treatment.

Easy fix. If you need a break from your phototherapy regime, we simply halt the treatment for as long as it is needed, then pick up the program upon your return. We may alter your phototherapy program on your return.  Please advise Westside Dermatology staff on your return from holidays so that the program can be altered.

A consultant Dermatologist assessment is needed prior to commencing phototherapy sessions for vitiligo. During the initial consultation your Dermatologist will photograph and document the extent of your vitiligo. A phototherapy program will be tailored individually for you around your skin type, and how many narrowband phototherapy sessions you can attend per week.

In many cases we will prescribe you a combination of creams, including anti-inflammatory creams, and vitamin D creams.

For more information on appointment times and the referral process call 07 3871 34 37 to book a consultation with our vitiligo experts: Dr Davin Lim or Dr Shobhan Manoharan.


Dr Davin S. Lim
Consultant Dermatologist
Westside Dermatology

Phototherapy remains the gold standard for the treatment of vitiligo. Our vitiligo clinic at Westside Dermatology consistently has a success rate of between 60-80%. I usually combine topical anti-inflammatory creams with narrowband phototherapy in most patients to achieve optimal results. Several factors are important in regards to the predictability of narrowband phototherapy. These include patient motivation; a minimum of 20-30 sessions are needed to determine whether vitiligo will respond to phototherapy. We encourage a minimum of two sessions per week however three is optimal. We also have a higher success rate if vitiligo involves facial areas, compared to patches on the hands and feet.