Vitiligo is a skin disease in which melanocytes, which are skin pigments, are destroyed, resulting in skin that turns white and patchy in any location in the body. It is popularly known as leucoderma. It is said to be an autoimmune disorder, wherein the body attacks and destroys certain cells by mistake. The stimulus that triggers this is not really known. It tends to run in the family and is also associated with conditions like thyroid dysfunction. We tell you here all about vitiligo prevention and treatment and give you all the information you need to know about the disease.
Vitiligo and its Causes
Melanocytes are the pigments that give our skin the color it has. In Vitiligo, due to the destruction of melanocytes, white patches are formed in different parts of the body. They can also occur in the tissue that lines the inside of the nose and mouth and the retina too. The most widely accepted cause of Vitiligo is that it is an autoimmune disorder, wherein the body’s immune system attacks the melanocytes by mistake and destroys them. Vitiligo has also been observed to be hereditary- if one of your parents suffered from vitiligo, then it is quite possible that you would contract it too.
Depigmentation or white patches start occurring in the skin, marking the beginning of vitiligo. It is more apparent in the people with darker skin. It can be localised to a small part of the body or restricted to one half of the body or can even occur symmetrically on both sides. Patients could even experience premature greying of hair in the scalp, eyebrows and lashes. The patches may or may not spread on your body. However, do note that they are not contagious, as this is a common misconception about vitiligo.
If Vitiligo runs in your family and you want to be on the safer side and prevent it, then there are ways to do so.
- In order to produce melanin, our body needs tyrosine and tyrosinase. Tyrosine is a by product of metabolism while tyrosinase needs to be obtained through foods rich in iron, copper and zinc. If you want the melanin production in the body to be optimum, then make sure that you get your required dosage of these minerals through food.
- Since we do not know the exact trigger for the autoimmune disorder, it is best to prevent the body from getting exposed to too much pollution – be it environmental or through food. Avoid inhaling dust and smoke, eat nutritious food, wash away pesticides from your vegetables well and reduce your exposure to UV rays.
- Emotional upheavals may also trigger the autoimmune disorder. So remain calm and composed, practice meditation and do not exert your mind too much and stress it.
Also read about mantra yoga which balances our nervous system here
Vitiligo is not a life threatening disease. It does more psychological damage than physiological. The goal of the treatment is to improve the appearance of the skin. The therapy for vitiligo can last upto 2 years. The options for treating Vitiligo are :
- Topical creams – Steroid creams containing corticosteroids like acetonide help in repigmenting the white patches of the skin. It takes close to 3 months to show results.
- Psoralen Photochemotherapy – In this treatment, psoralen is used on the white patches. Psoralen is a substance that reacts with UV rays and causes darkening of the skin in the regions in which it is administered. It is applied topically to people with small patches of vitiligo. If the vitiligo is extensive, then it is administered orally and followed up with an exposure to artificial UV light.
- Depigmentation treatment – This is the treatment prescribed for people with more than 50% of their body attacked by vitiligo. In this, depigmentation is done for the rest of the body so that the entire body has a uniform skin tone.
- Surgery- Skin grafting, wherein grafts of healthy skin are placed on the white patches is a surgery that can be performed to treat vitiligo. Another option is through melanocyte transplant. Melanocytes and Keratinocytes are obtained from the patient and grown in culture labs. They are then transferred into the vitiligo affected area and help restore color to the skin.
Vitiligo does a lot of psychological damage by bringing down the confidence levels of people who contract the disease. The key is to remain strong and go through the treatment since it is a curable disease.
Read more about hyperpigmentation and its treatment here