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J Am Acad Dermatol. 2001 May;44(5):814-7.

Oral dexamethasone pulse treatment for vitiligo.

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Divisions of Special and Environmental Dermatology and General Dermatology, Department of Dermatology, University of Vienna Medical School, Austria.



Oral corticosteroid pulse therapy has provided inconsistent results in the treatment of Indian patients with vitiligo.


We wanted to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of oral dexamethasone pulse therapy in a cohort of Austrian patients with vitiligo.


Twenty-nine patients with vitiligo were included in the study. Of these, 25 had progressive and 4 had stable disease. The patients were given weekly pulses of 10 mg dexamethasone each on 2 consecutive days followed by 5 days off treatment for a maximum period of 24 weeks. Clinical response and side effects were evaluated in monthly intervals. Plasma cortisol and corticotropin levels were monitored before and up to 6 days after the dexamethasone pulse in the first and fourth week of treatment in 14 patients.


After a mean treatment period of 18.2 +/- 5.2 weeks, the disease activity was arrested in 22 of 25 patients (88%) who had active vitiligo before the study. Marked repigmentation occurred in 2 patients (6.9%) and moderate or slight repigmentation in 3 patients (10.3%) each. No response was noted in 21 patients (72.4%). Side effects were recorded in 20 patients (69%) and included weight gain, insomnia, acne, agitation, menstrual disturbance, and hypertrichosis. Plasma cortisol and corticotropin values were markedly decreased 24 hours after the second dexamethasone dose, yet returned to baseline values within the off treatment period before the next dexamethasone pulse.


Our data show that oral dexamethasone pulse treatment is effective in arresting progression of vitiligo yet fails to induce satisfactory repigmentation in the great majority of our patient cohort. Mild to moderate side effects are common with this treatment modality; however, sustained suppression of endogenous cortisol production does not occur with the pulse regimen.

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