Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that destroys skin pigment, leaving areas of skin looking like they've been bleached white. Although things like steroid creams may help in some cases, often there isn't much that can be done. Help may be on the way, however, as doctors have had success using a combination of an arthritis drug and ultraviolet light.

In previous studies, Dr. Brett King (of Yale University) and Dr. John Harris (from the University of Massachusetts-Worcester) had determined two things: the drug tofacitinib stops the immune system from attacking the skin cells that manufacture melanin pigment, and narrow-band UVB light helps restore skin color by stimulating pigment-making cells.

King recently had two patients with severe vitiligo, who hadn't responded to traditional treatments. After trying them on the tofacitinib/UVB combo for a few months, though, they both experienced near-total restoration of skin color in the affected areas.

While more research is still needed, King states that "These findings will define treatment of vitiligo in the future."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal JAMA Dermatology.