KOCHI: We live in a country that still has racist prejudices when it comes to beauty. Fairness is still considered by many to be the epitome of beauty. This is probably why vitiligo still has a lot of stigma associated with it. Vitiligo is not a life threatening or contagious condition. Unfortunately, for some it can be life changing. They tend to develop low self esteem as a result of the social and emotional trauma that comes with such a condition.
Vitiligo is a condition in which people start losing their skin colour. For some, small white patches start appearing on the skin. While in some, it is limited but in others it could be spread throughout their bodies. Some people can even lose the colour of their lips and hair.
Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells called melanocytes die. The exact causes of why this happens is still not fully understood. One type of vitiligo, called non-segmental vitiligo, may be an autoimmune disease (where our body recognises melanocytes as a foreign entity, thereby attacking and killing it). It could be related to other autoimmune diseases like thyroid, or diabetes. Another reason could be the imbalance of antioxidants in our body. Segmental vitiligo is caused by neurological disorders.
There is a chance for children with parents or 1st degree relatives suffering from vitiligo developing the disease, but it’s not seen in all cases. Trauma in vitiligo can also cause skin lesions, a condition called Koebner’s phenomenon.
There are topical creams and ointments that take care of the immune reactions and help in reinstating the colour in small regions of the skin.
Sometimes, oral medication is needed to halt the disease progression, and some medicines that help in regimentation are prescribed.
Light treatments which help halting the progression of the disease and helps repigment the skin in cases of widespread patches. It can be done in a light room (narrow band UVB, UVA), by applying lotions or ingesting certain tablets (like psoralens) and through exposure to sunlight. Lamps and lasers of certain specific type can also be used.
Surgical measures are available for patients who do not respond to light therapy and medicines. Different surgical treatments are available but the disease should be stable (no pro) at least for a year.
Cosmetic makeups and camouflage creams can be used to temporarily cover lesions.
Other adjuvant treatments
Some vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes can help expedite conventional treatments. Predicting how a patient will respond to the treatment may not be possible. Results of treatment can vary from person to person depending on types of lesions. A combination treatment best helps vitiligo patients. Vitiligo patients can use sunscreen and covered clothing to protect the skin from burns. They also need a lot of emotional support and counselling.