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Vitiligo is a skin disorder that causes depigmentation (loss of skin color) in areas of the body where there usually is pigment (brown spots). The failure of skin color may result in patches. There are many myths surrounding vitiligo, some of which have been proven incorrect by research and others that remain solved. People with vitiligo often suffer psychological stress, and many become socially withdrawn, depressed, or anxious.
The disease has no known cure though it can be controlled with immunomodulating therapies that change immune system function. Treatment options for depigmentation include topical creams such as fluorouracil and steroids, oral medications such as thioredoxin inhibitors, calcineurin inhibitors, topical tacrolimus or pimecrolimus, excimer laser therapy (for limited disease), and melanocyte transplantation.Here are some myths and facts about vitiligo.
Myths:1. Vitiligo spreads fast and is incurable.
Fact:Â Vitiligo does not spread from one part of the body to another. It is a long-term condition but can be controlled to become inactive without causing any stress to the patient.
2. Vitiligo cannot affect children or young adults who are below 20 years of age.
Fact:Â Young people with vitiligo have an equal chance of being affected by the disorder as older people do since infants, children, and adolescents might also have vitiligo in tiny patches on their skin that disappear as they grow into adulthood.
3. People suffering from vitiligo turn into albinos or become total white when it covers all their bodies, including the scalp and face.
Fact:Â The vitiligo spots that appear on people’s skin vary in size and location, including the scalp, usually not affected if they have extensive vitiligo. They do not turn into albinos or become 100% white as their hair, irises of the eye, blood vessels, and even internal organs such as liver and heart remain unchanged.
4. Vitiligo does not cause pain.Â
Fact:Â It is a common myth that those with vitiligo do not suffer from any discomfort or pain due to the loss of their normal pigmentation. This is untrue because it can be very disturbing for people to see white areas on their skin where there are generally dark patches, especially in the visible regions, such as the face, hands, and arms.
5. People with vitiligo can treat their disease by deliberately re-pigmenting their skin.Â
Fact:Â Although depigmentation is reversible in those who suffer from vitiligo, repigmentation of the skin after successful melanocyte transplantation is impossible due to permanent damage to the pigment cells. It should be treated as a vitiligo treatment only if the patient lacks normal melanocytes or has lost these pigment cells entirely due to an accident or condition such as chemical burns.
6. The cause of vitiligo is unknown.Â
Fact: There are two types of vitiligo, which are autoimmune disease-related vitiligo – in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment in our skin – and non-autoimmune disease-related vitiligo, which is caused by factors such as toxic substances, stress, genetic mutations or other unknown factors.
7. Vitiligo can be contagious.Â
Fact:Â Vitiligo cannot be transferred from one person to another by touch or through contact with any material since it is not an infectious disease nor affects physical health. It only causes distress to sufferers due to its visible appearance, so people living with the disorder should seek help immediately before social isolation occurs.
8. People with vitiligo cannot lead an everyday life and will always be rejected by society.Â
Fact:Â It is tough to understand the emotional and psychological difficulties faced by those who have vitiligo as it may cause them to feel insecure or isolated, mainly because the disorder seems so apparent, although affected people can still work in various fields such as arts, media, literature, fashion, and sports as well as take part in social activities. Vitiligo does not affect intelligence levels, nor does it make someone incapable of doing anything.
9. Only dark-skinned people get vitiligo.Â
Fact:Â Vitiligo is not only found in dark-skinned people as this disorder can affect all ethnic groups regardless of skin color. Even though vitiligo affects many people with darker complexions, it also appears on the skin of fair-skinned or redheaded people. Research shows that more than one million Caucasians are affected by vitiligo.
10. Vitiligo cannot be treated until a specific cause is identified and diagnosed by doctors.Â
Fact:Â Although there is no known cure for vitiligo yet, its symptoms can be controlled through treatments such as sunlight therapy, pressure bandages, camouflage makeup, or contact lenses to make sufferers feel better about themselves until new advances in medicine are made to develop a cure for this disorder possibly.
11. Vitiligo can be caused by drinking milk.Â
Fact:Â There is no scientific proof or conclusive evidence of any type that supports the idea that consumption of milk products such as cheese and yogurt can lead to vitiligo, nor has this been proved by medical science. This myth may have originated from the fact that various types of medication such as aminobenzoic acid, sulfonamides, and paraphenylenediamine contained in some types of cosmetics and skin-lightening creams can cause vitiligo. However, sufferers should always read the ingredients listed on cosmetic labels before using products on their skin to avoid having another attack on melanocytes cells.
12. Vitiligo cannot be cured through light therapy.Â
Fact:Â Light therapy such as narrowband ultraviolet B therapy can help melanocytes cells produce more pigment to repigment skin.
13. Vitiligo cannot be cured using steroids.Â
Fact:Â Steroid creams such as betamethasone or clobetasol can reduce or slow down the process of depigmentation in vitiligo patients, but they should never be used for an extended period since they may cause various side effects. These creams should only be used until topical treatments with phototherapy are initiated.
14. Medications to treat depression and other mental health issues can cause vitiligoÂ
Fact:Â There is no scientific proof that antidepressants, antipsychotic medicines, or drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease have any effect on vitiligo.
15. Vitiligo is a form of leprosy:
Fact:Â Unlike vitiligo, leprosy causes the loss of nerve sensations, muscle paralysis, and skin discoloration due to a lack of pigment called “achromia,” which cannot be repigmented, unlike in those who have vitiligo. Leprosy is also known as Hansen’s disease, caused by infection from the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae, unlike vitiligo. In this autoimmune disorder, the body’s immune cells attack melanocytes cells that produce the pigment that gives color to the skin. It should be noted, however, that both conditions can co-exist in one individual at any time.
16. Vitamin C deficiency causes vitiligo:
Fact:Â There is no scientific proof or conclusive evidence of any type that supports the idea that lack of vitamin C can lead to vitiligo, nor has this been proved by medical science. People who have vitiligo should eat more fruits and vegetables containing high levels of vitamin C for general health but not specifically to treat their disorder.
17. Eating fish oil supplements may help cure vitiligo:
Fact:Â Although the omega-three fatty acids contained in oils from some types of fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and sardines are good for overall health, including brain activity, there are no known benefits or advantages of eating these products to cure vitiligo at the moment because there is no scientific proof or conclusive evidence of any type that supports the idea.
18. Stress can cause vitiligo:
Fact:Â Although stress is a common trigger for vitiligo attacks, it cannot be the main reason people develop this disorder. Many people have vitiligo who live everyday lives without being stressed out by anything. Because of this fact, researchers believe certain unknown factors like excessive exposure to sunlight and even some types of infections can lead to the development of this condition in some individuals. In some patients who have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders or depression, treatment with antidepressants may help repigment skin areas affected by vitiligo. Still, they should always consult their physicians before taking these medications since various side effects can occur, such as nausea, headaches, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction.
19. Vitiligo can be caused by eating fish over milk:
Fact:Â Vitiligo appears to be entirely unaffected by diet. Vitiligo is thought to be an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system begins attacking itself rather than outside invaders. Since the cause of autoimmune disorders is not fully understood, it is difficult to state that diet does not affect vitiligo definitively. However, there is no evidence suggesting that any foods or substances can trigger or prevent vitiligo.
20. Vitiligo can’t affect areas with hair:Â
Fact:Â Hair does not protect skin from vitiligo. It appears that previous damage to melanocytes caused by sunburns or other injuries creates an environment where the destruction of pigment cells becomes possible before even developing vitiliginous patches. Even in areas where hair is present, vitiligo can develop.
21. People with vitiligo have physical and mental disabilities:
Fact:Â While vitiligo can be psychologically stressful or traumatic, early diagnosis and treatment of the disease are associated with a low risk of functional abnormalities. Whereas people who have vitiligo are not physically or mentally impaired, they will not develop low melanocyte counts because of vitiligo.
22. The only treatments for vitiligo are skin camouflage, bleaching creams, and sunscreens:Â Â
Fact:Â The most effective treatment for areas where pigment has been lost involves transplantation melanocytes from unaffected skin to the region with damaged cells. These are often taken from behind the ear or on other areas which are hidden by hair. Treatment can also include medications such as corticosteroids applied topically to reduce inflammation, calcineurin inhibitors to inhibit the destruction of remaining melanocytes by the immune system, and biological response modifiers to boost the body’s melanin production.
23. Touching your skin will make vitiligo spread:Â Â
Fact:Â When people with vitiligo touch or rub affected areas, this does not cause the disease to progress in any way. Skin-to-skin contact with others is also perfectly safe and should be avoided for no other reason than simple personal comfort. Skin touching skin does not transmit vitiligo. One report of a man who accidentally injured his nose while working on equipment that sprayed powdered glass onto him. This man experienced vitiligo behind his ear due to physical contact over many years with this injury site (and was eventually successfully treated).
24. Sun exposure will turn white patches back to brown:Â
Fact:Â Sun exposure will not affect the color of vitiligo-affected areas. If there is any change in color that occurs, this would be due to aging or changes in skincare products used.
25. Vitiligo spreads without contact:Â Â
Fact:Â Vitiligo does not spread immediately upon exposure with another person who has vitiligo, nor does it spread through casual contact such as touching surfaces where someone else touched their patches.
The only way to contract vitiligo is by inheritance from a parent who carries the gene for the disorder (this is known as familial or localized vitiligo). This form of disease accounts for approximately 10% of all cases worldwide. People with one parent affected are at 50% risk of passing their disorder on to their children.
Vitiligo does not affect the internal organs and cannot be transmitted through blood transfusions or sexual contact.
26. Vitamin D will make vitiligo disappear:Â Â
Fact:Â Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease and has nothing to do with vitamin D deficiency. There is no evidence that vitamin D supplements have any effect on its progression, color of patches, or rate of growth.
27. Anything can trigger vitiligo:
Fact:Â There are many theories about what might trigger vitiligo, but none of them have been proven true in all cases. It seems more likely that anything which damages melanocytes could potentially induce an episode of the disease rather than cause it directly. However, some things may trigger the activation of the autoimmune response. These include pregnancy, infection, illness, significant stress or trauma, and even sunlight exposure.
28. Vitiligo has no cure:
Fact:Â This is not true; homeopathic treatment for vitiligo treats the autoimmune disorder and is a safe and effective treatment method. Homeopathic treatment has no chemical side effects, is non-invasive, and can be used alongside other treatments such as phototherapy. Homeopathy treats the underlying cause of the disease rather than just treating symptoms; this allows homeopathic remedies to prevent future episodes of vitiligo from occurring or reduce their severity significantly. Homeopathy also helps with any emotional issues that may arise from dealing with a skin condition that is visible on your face and hands. For more information on vitiligo, check OHO Homeopathy blogs!