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Vitiligo is a common skin disorder which is also referred to as 'white leprosy' or 'leucoderma.' Because of a limited understanding about vitiligo, people suffering from it often have a low self-esteem and experience social isolation to some extent. Plus, there are a lot of misconceptions associated with vitiligo, like it is contagious and nothing can be done about it.
If you are suffering from vitiligo, you should realize that:
What causes vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a skin disorder in which the cells (melanocytes) that make the skin pigment called melanin are damaged. Melanin is a pigment responsible to give the skin its normal, brown color. Lack of melanin gives rise to white patches on the skin. In the initial stages, white patches (depigmentation) appear on specific areas such as the hands, feet, face and around the lips. Later, they appear in the armpits and around the eyes, nostrils, navel and rectum.
The exact reason for destruction of melanocytes is not known. But, researchers suggest that it has something to do with the immune system. Evidence suggests that a combination of factors such as autoimmunity, in which immune system acts against the body's own tissues, genetic aspects and environmental aspects may cause vitiligo.
Research has shown that people suffering from vitiligo have a group of 3 genes that increase their susceptibility to destruction of melanin. It has also been found that cells of the immune system produce certain chemicals (cytokines) that alter the pigment-producing cells causing their death. Studies also suggest that melanocytes under certain conditions may destroy themselves. (Read: Delhi doc cures Kenyan man's vitiligo)
What is the best treatment option for Vitiligo?
The main intention of any treatment option for vitiligo is to improve its appearance. And, the recommended treatment depends on the amount and type of white patches, their size and location, and the extent to which they are spread. But, ultimately it also depends on what works best for you and what you prefer because every patient with vitiligo may respond to the treatment differently.
Currently, options for vitiligo treatment include drug therapy, surgery, alternative therapies like homeopathy and ayurvedic therapy.
Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of vitiligo.
Surgical techniques may be recommended when medical treatment is ineffective. These include:
Dr Sharad says, 'Most cases of localised vitiligo can be reversed with the above mentioned treatments. In case of extensive vitiligo even though the repigmentation is not 100% but with treatment the cosmetic appearance of the patient can be greatly improved.'
Dr Rohit Batra, dermatologist and vitiligo expert at Sir Ganga Ram Hosptial says 'The results of surgical treatment in vitiligo patients are encouraging and patients must not lose hope.' The cost of surgical treatment of a white patch of about 100 sq cm on a patient's hand would cost anywhere between Rs.20,000 and Rs.40,000 in India.
Homeopathy: There are several homeopathic medicines that are believed to enhance the production of skin pigment. The treatment given will be based on understanding of the patient's history and way of living. Although homeopathy holds that vitiligo can be cured completely, it may not work for everyone. (Read: Homeopathy treats white patches safely)
Ayurveda: In ayurveda, the focus is mainly on correcting diet and introducing lifestyle changes. Several home remedies that involve ginger juice, turmeric, mustard oil etc for external application are recommended in ayurveda. However, it may take time to show results.
Other adjunctive treatments:
Other treatments such as light therapy or laser treatment can be used to improve the appearance temporarily. Additionally, there are several things you can do to protect as well as improve the appearance of your skin.
Using sunscreens and reducing exposure to sun prevents tanning. This will help you to reduce the contrast between pigmented skin and white patches. You could use cosmetics to mask a few facial white patches. Self tanning products that contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) can also be used to camouflage white patches.
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