Results of the HI-Light Vitiligo Trial
From Natasha Rogers
Transcript for HI Light Animation
Vitiligo is a condition that causes loss of colour in patches of skin.
Although these patches don’t cause many physical symptoms, people who suffer from vitiligo can be very distressed by it and often have a reduced sense of wellbeing.
There is no known cure for vitiligo, although some people find that using steroid creams or special light, known as narrow-band ultraviolet light (NB-UVB), can help colour return to the skin.
There haven’t been many well-designed clinical studies to find out whether or not steroid creams and light therapy really work for vitiligo.
So we wanted to do a big, well-designed study to see how safe and effective these treatments are – either when used on their own or when used together. We called this the HI-Light Vitiligo study.
Over 500 adults and children took part in the study to help us answer this question.
Participants were given two treatments to use at home: a hand-held light unit and a cream. The participants didn’t know whether they had been given an ‘active treatment’ or an inactive treatment’, but everyone received at least one active treatment.
Before using the treatments, a nurse showed participants how to use them safely.
Vitiligo is a difficult skin condition to treat and it can take a long time for the skin to respond to treatment. Participants used the treatments in this study for up to 9-months.
After 9 months, we asked participants whether they thought the treatment had worked for them. We considered the treatment to be successful if they thought that the vitligo was ‘a lot less noticeable’ or ‘no longer noticeable’ by the end of treatment.
The results showed that using light therapy and steroid cream together was better than using just steroid cream on its own, and the combination treatment was also likely to get a treatment response more quickly. Using light therapy on its own wasn’t much better than steroid cream used on its own. The study also showed that the treatments were safe to use at home for up to 9 months, with few side-effects.
Unfortunately, once the treatments were stopped, improvements in the vitiligo patches were slowly lost over the following year, so it is possible that ongoing treatment is needed.
Feedback from people in the trial suggested that the treatments were easy to use but it was important to receive thorough training before starting. Light treatment was also felt to be quite time-consuming.
So, the HI-Light vitiligo study showed that using steroid cream and narrowband ultraviolet light together to treat vitiligo patches is more effective than using either treatment on its own, although steroid cream on its own remains a useful first treatment.