PABA and its use in Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a common skin disorder which does not harm the physical wellbeing of affected individual but can have a very serious impact on the psycho social wellbeing of the individual. Despite spectacular improvements in the management of this problem there are still are people who do not respond to any availability. This leads to desperation and they start knocking at every door which offers them the slightest hope of treating this disease.

An increasing interest in PABA (para aminobenzoic acid) in the recent days falls in the same category. There are a lots of people who are found chanting slogans in favor of this remedy. We have searched the medical literature in this regard which has a lot of information regarding PABA in various disciplines of medicine but very little evidence regarding its use in vitiligo.

One study which was published in 1942 (ref: Sieve BF. The clinical effects of a new B complex factor, para-aminobenzoic acid, on pigmentation and fertility. South Med Surg. 1942;104:135139.) claimed success in treating male infinitely and vitiligo with oral use of PABA. The study did not include any controlled groups and hence does not carry any scientific significance. It is interesting however to find that toxicity of PABA leading to condition resembling vitiligo has been reported in 1983 (ref: Hughes CG. Oral PABA and vitiligo [letter]. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1983;9:770 ).

PABA is also surrounded by safety issues which range from hyper sensitivity to its topical use to extensive liver damage and skin depigmentation. It has also been found to interfere with the certain sulfa antibiotics. The safety in children, pregnant or nursing women and individuals with liver and kidney disease has not been evaluate satisfactorily.