Vitiligo or leucoderma is a chronic skin condition that causes patchy loss of skin color. It can affect the skin on any part of the body and, in addition, can affect hair and mucus membranes too. The extent and rate of color loss from vitiligo is unpredictable.
Melanin – a pigment in our body – gives our hair and skin its characteristic color. Vitiligo occurs when the melanin-producing cells die or stop functioning. The exact cause of the destruction of these cells is not known.
Vitiligo affects people of all skin types but is more noticeable in people with darker skin.
Though the condition is not life-threatening or contagious, it may cause a considerable drop in the ‘self-image’ of the sufferer leading to stress or depression. They may start to feel bad about themselves.
Available treatments for vitiligo may restore color to the affected skin but generally fail to prevent continued loss of skin color or a recurrence.
Signs and Symptoms
Presence of a patchy loss of skin color is the main sign of vitiligo. Affected areas of skin turn white (depigmented) and usually have sharp margins.
Have a look at the images (taken on 4th Sept 2019 and then on 29th Jan 2020) of a vitiligo patient at my chamber. They clearly show a gradual merging of the sharp lesion and a subsequent return of skin color to normalcy. The patient might take some more time for a complete cure.
Often, the discoloration first shows on sun-exposed areas, such as the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. The patches are initially small, but often grow and change shape. Some lesions can have increased skin pigment around the edges. A few may experience itching before a new patch appears.
The loss of skin pigment may be particularly noticeable around body orifices, such as your mouth, eyes, nostrils, genitals, or the belly button.
There may often be a premature whitening or graying of the hair on the affected portions of scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard.
Other common areas for white patches can be the armpits and groin.
There can be loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of your mouth, nose, rectum or genitals too (mucous membranes).
In a few cases, loss of color from the retina (inner layer of the eye that contains light-sensitive cells) or the iris (colored part of the eye) may cause inflammation but the vision is usually not affected. Depigmentation from iris can even change the color of one or both eyes.
Globally about 1% of people are affected by vitiligo, though, in some populations, it affects as many as 2–3%. Males and females are equally affected. Vitiligo can start at any age but about half show the disorder before age 20 and most develop it before age 40.
Depending on the type of vitiligo one has, the discolored patches may cover:
- Many parts of the body in the most common type, called non-segmental (NSV) vitiligo. It affects both sides and there is usually some form of symmetry in the location of the depigmented patches. They often progress or expand with time.
- Only one side or part of the body. This type, called segmental vitiligo (SV), tends to occur at a younger age, progresses for a year or two, then typically stops or doesn’t expand with time. SV does not improve with topical therapies or UV light, however surgical treatments such as cellular grafting can be effective.
Classes of non-segmental vitiligo include:
- Generalized vitiligo: the most common pattern, involving wide and randomly distributed areas of depigmentation
- Vitiligo Universalis: an extreme case where depigmentation encompasses most of the body
- Focal vitiligo: one or a few scattered macules in one area, most common in children
- Acrofacial vitiligo: involving fingers and around eyes, nose, or mouth
- Mucosal vitiligo: depigmentation of only the mucous membranes — mouth, nose, rectum, etc.
When to see a doctor?
Visit a doctor if areas of your skin, hair or eyes start to lose color. Diagnosis can be confirmed by tissue biopsy.
Vitiligo has no cure. But timely intervention may help stop or slow down the discoloring process and return some color to your skin.
Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) die or stop producing melanin — the pigment that gives your skin, hair and eyes color. The involved patches of skin become lighter or white. The probable cause as to why these cells fail or die is still unknown. It may be related to:
- An autoimmune response: A disorder in which your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the melanocytes in the skin.
- Genetic Susceptibility: Sometimes, if there’s a family history of the condition.
- A trigger event: Such as sunburn, stress, exposure to industrial chemicals or a burn, etc.
What are the chances of vitiligo spreading?
It’s difficult to predict how your disease will progress. For some people, the white patches may stop forming after a while. But In most cases, pigment loss spreads and eventually involves most of the skin. For some people, vitiligo spreads slowly, over many years. For other people, spreading occurs quickly. Some people have reported more white patches after physical or emotional stress.
Rarely, the skin may get its color back.
People with vitiligo may get at an increased risk of:
- Social or psychological distress
- Sunburn and skin cancer (avoid direct sun rays and always use sunscreen if you must need to go)
- Eye problems, such as inflammation of the iris (avoiding direct glare and use of shades is advisable)
- Hearing loss if melanocytes in the inner ear get attacked
Since vitiligo can cause serious self-esteem issues, lack of confidence, depression and even social isolation, people can go to any length to get themselves treated and may end up falling prey to advertisements and hoax treatments. However, a majority of these fail to offer a foolproof or long-lasting result.
Available treatment options include oral steroids, topical creams, phototherapy with UVB lamps, ultraviolet A (UVA) light, Psoralen and ultraviolet A light (PUVA) and surgical grafts. You need to consult a dermatologist to avail of these. Most of these treatments are aimed at restoring color to the white patches. They may have limited scope and offer short-term efficacy.
De-pigmenting — A Cosmetic Option
In cases of extensive vitiligo, the option to de-pigment the unaffected skin with topical drugs like monobenzone, mequinol, or hydroquinone may be considered to render the skin an even color. The removal of all the skin pigment with monobenzone is permanent and vigorous.
Sun-safety must be adhered to for life post-de-pigmentation to avoid severe sunburn and melanomas.
Depigmentation takes about a year to complete.
Homoeopathy, as a science, is able to provide a lasting cure in many cases of vitiligo, especially if they are of a recent occurrence. Since homoeopathic principles do not believe vitiligo to be a disease in itself, but rather an expression of an inner disturbed state of the body, they work on bringing a cure from the level where things initially went wrong. In order to achieve this, the patient is analyzed on various aspects of mental, physical and familial attributes. Also, the prescription is based on identifying the causative miasm and the deepest level of psychological understanding of the patient, thereby delving into the root cause of the disease. This individualized approach widens the scope of homoeopathy in bringing positive results in every single case. When practiced following the laid principles, the prescription helps to correct the auto-immune disorder and thus restores the normal immune system. This stimulates the melanocytes back again and boosts the production of the pigment melanin, restoring the normal skin color.
Remedies such as Ars Sulph Flavum, Hydrocotyle Asiatica, Natrum Mur, Sepia, Lycopodium, Calc Carb, Sulphur, Tuberculinum, Bacilinum, and Syphylinum, to name a few, lead the long list of curative medicines.
Here is a case of vitiligo treated homoeopathically at my clinic, only through oral medication and the patient got rid of his condition in less than a year’s time. It’s been ten long years and he still hasn’t reported back a relapse.
Myths Vs Facts
Myth 1: Vitiligo is a result of consuming a wrong combination of foods, for instance, having milk shortly after eating fish can bring on the disorder.
Fact: Vitiligo has no link with diet. It is irrational to deprive patients of sour foods like lemon, curd, tomatoes, and pickles in the hope of declining the possibility of the disease.
Myth 2: People suffering from vitiligo are lesser in their mental/physical proficiencies.
Fact: Vitiligo is limited entirely to the skin and has absolutely no relationship with or does not influence or affect any other organ.
Myth 3: Vitiligo is a kind of leprosy and is communicable.
Fact: Vitiligo is in no way linked to leprosy. It is not infectious or contagious and, hence, cannot pass on from one person to another.
Myth 4: Vitiligo is connected to serious skin diseases, such as skin cancer and albinism.
Fact: There are transparent dissimilarities among each of these. None of them are linked to Vitiligo.
Myth 5: Vitiligo is untreatable.
Fact: Medications like steroids, Ultraviolet A, immunomodulatory drugs, Ultraviolet B along with several surgical options are available. Homoeopathy also gives marvelous results in the early stages of the disease.
If you’ve tried all means and are still not getting any positive results, maybe, its time you try Homoeopathy…