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Vitiligo is a disorder that affects the skin’s pigmentation, resulting in patches of discolored skin. Often these patches are lighter than the surrounding skin. Vitiligo does not cause pain or discomfort. The cause of vitiligo is unknown, but scientists think viruses or genes might play a role. Vitiligo usually appears in otherwise healthy children and adults between the ages of 10 to 30 years old. Although it can occur at any age, it most often appears before the age of 20. Males and females are equally affected by this condition. Let’s know details about this condition and its genetic connection.
What is vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a skin disorder in which there are white patches on the skin. Depigmentation occurs in areas of the skin when melanocytes die or stop producing pigment. The number of people with vitiligo is increasing in India and around the world. It is not a contagious disease, but sometimes it may be associated with autoimmune diseases such as hypothyroidism, pernicious anemia, diabetes mellitus, Addison’s disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus. Vitiligo causes symptoms such as loss of color (depigmentation) within patches of your skin or all over your body. Because this condition affects your appearance, it can cause low self-esteem and sometimes depression.
What are the types of vitiligo?
Vitiligo can be generalized or localized. Generalized vitiligo involves large body parts, often affecting the hands, feet, arms, legs, and face. Generalized vitiligo may start before age 20 in about 40% to 50% of patients. Some people with this type have widespread patches in several areas of their bodies. Others develop it in just one area that may expand slowly over time.
When depigmentation occurs only in one or a few places on your skin, it is localized vitiligo. If you are concerned about spotting on your skin, make an appointment with your doctor for diagnosis and treatment recommendations. They may refer you to a dermatologist who specializes in skin conditions (dermatologist).
What are the causes of vitiligo?
- Autoimmune disease: Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system attacks and destroys healthy cells by mistake. In people with autoimmune disorders, the body’s defense system (the immune system) mistakenly treats healthy tissue as if it were a germ and produces antibodies to fight off infection.
- Genetic disease: When harmful genes are passed from parents to children, an inherited condition or genetic disorder. If you have one copy of a gene mutation, you don’t get the disease but can pass on the mutated gene to your children.
- Exposure to chemicals: Some people develop vitiligo after exposure to certain chemicals. Sunlight may make vitiligo worse in some people. The substances most often associated with vitiligo are mercury, hydroquinone, and thallium.
- Infection: The Epstein-Barr virus’s low level of infection is common among children with generalized vitiligo. This virus can interfere with melanocyte function without causing active disease or symptoms, triggering the production of antibodies against the body’s cells.
- Autoimmune thyroid disease: There appears to be an association between autoimmune thyroid diseases (ATDs) and vitiligo. ATDs include Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease. About 40 percent of patients with vitiligo have ATD. Autoimmune thyroid disease is more common in patients with generalized vitiligo.
- Other diseases: People with certain other conditions are more likely to develop vitiligo, including Addison’s disease, pernicious anemia, diabetes mellitus, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and atopic dermatitis.
What are the symptoms of vitiligo?
Symptoms vary from person to person. In general, they include:
- Patchy loss of color in your skin. The affected areas of skin may be lighter or darker than the skin around them.
- Skin color changes involving large portions of your body surface area (generalized vitiligo).
- Depigmented patches on your skin. The affected areas of skin may be lighter or darker than the skin around them.
- Creeping patch of lost skin color that spreads over time (segmental vitiligo). This type is typically seen in young children and tends to affect the arms and legs more than the trunk of your body. Spreading of the patches may occur over weeks or months.
- Rapid loss of skin color in one area (localized vitiligo). This type usually affects exposed areas, such as your face, neck, hands, arms, feet, or legs. The amount of pigment lost differs from person to person and can be minor or extensive.
How is vitiligo related to genetics?
Vitiligo is an acquired pigmentary disorder that affects all ethnic groups and has presumed autoimmune pathogenesis in most patients. The high frequency of association with other autoimmune diseases suggests that vitiligo is associated with a genetic predisposition. Vitiligo may be considered a complex trait because it exhibits autosomal dominant inheritance in some families and recessive inheritance in others.
Are you genetically prone to vitiligo?
Since vitiligo sometimes appears to run in families, it’s understandable that that vitiligo affects will wonder if it’s genetic. The answer is yes and no. Many people with vitiligo have other family members who also have vitiligo – but the chance of developing the disorder if no one else in your family has it is still only about 1 to 2 percent.
Are your children at risk of getting vitiligo?
There is a chance that they may develop it. If one parent has the condition, each child has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the gene for vitiligo from this parent. If both parents have the disorder, their children have a 75 percent chance of developing vitiligo. People who have two sets of genes for vitiligo are said to have familial vitiligo.
What are the treatments for vitiligo?
Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments to restore skin color :
- Topical ointments: Creams or ointments that can be applied directly to the white patches on your skin. These treatments include:
- Corticosteroids: These drugs may help stop the immune system from attacking pigment cells. They also speed up the process of repigmentation, but only for a short time.
- Calcineurin inhibitors: This type of treatment slows the immune system’s destruction of pigment cells. Calcineurin inhibitors, such as tacrolimus and pimecrolimus, are an alternative to corticosteroids for vitiligo.
- Ultraviolet light therapy: This form of treatment is also called phototherapy. A particular machine delivers controlled amounts of ultraviolet A and B light to affected areas. The light sources are adjusted according to your skin type, the size of skin being treated, and the amount of pigment loss you have. Ultraviolet light therapy can cause repigmentation in some people with vitiligo.
- Narrowband UVB phototherapy: This treatment is similar to standard phototherapy, but it uses a more focused beam of ultraviolet B light.
- Skin grafting: A skin graft is an area of healthy skin tissue that’s taken from another part of your body and transplanted to the place where pigment is missing. This procedure is helpful for large areas on the arms or legs. But not all surgeons perform this type of treatment.
- Pigment-dispersion syndrome: This condition results from extensive, long-term use of topical corticosteroids or other skin-lightening agents. It’s marked by gradual loss of the standard skin color around the mouth and eyes, among other areas.
What about the children?
If only one parent has vitiligo, it’s unlikely that their child will get the condition. But if both parents have it and any of their children inherit their genes, there’s a chance they’ll develop vitiligo too. Very few studies have been done on whether or not vitiligo can be passed down from a parent to a child. If you have vitiligo, it may help your children if you tell them about the disorder and encourage them to share any concerns with their doctor.
How to prevent the risk of vitiligo?
- Prevent Stress: Stress is known to aggravate vitiligo. Preferably avoid stressful situations as much as you can. This will help your skin retain color better.
- Sunblock: Use a good quality sunblock with SPF 30 or more when stepping out in the sunshine for long durations of time. It is essential that the sunscreen has Zinc and titanium dioxide as active ingredients and should be non-comedogenic (do not block pores). Apply it half an hour before going outdoors and re-apply after every few hours, depending upon how often you step out under the sun.
- Antioxidants: Normally, our body produces adequate antioxidants such as glutathione which maintain our health and protect us from stress is one of the significant reasons behind vitiligo. You must try to avoid stress and learn how to relax more often.
4 . A healthy diet: A balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can help your body maintain its natural defenses against the development of Vitiligo Skin Disorder (VSD). This disease is not curable yet, but it can be managed very well with the proper treatment. Remember to have enough Vitamin C in your diet, which is an excellent antioxidant.
5 . Stay positive: This is one of the most important steps to improve your immune system and stay healthy. Keeping a positive attitude will bring you to great head starts in life, even if not directly related to Vitiligo Skin Disorder (VSD).
6 . Avoid smoking: Nicotine in cigarettes can aggravate vitiligo skin disorders due to stress by reducing blood flow to the skin. So try avoiding it or having it in minimal quantity if needed.
7 . Keep yourself occupied: Try not to spend too much time pondering over your condition, as this leads to more stress, aggravating skin disorder. Try to engage yourself in some fun activities or hobbies, or learn a new skill you have always wanted to.
8 . Avoid frequent hand washings: This reduces your immunity levels and makes your skin vulnerable to more infections, resulting in temporary repigmentation of the vitiligo skin patches on your hands due to stress.
9 . Disburden yourself: If anything is troubling you, share it with somebody close to you; this will help them understand you better and vice versa. You can also listen to some relaxing music while doing so, as it helps reduce stress levels. And finally, remember that stress has no cure, but it can be managed well with these steps.
10 . Get yourself checked by a dermatologist: If any family member has Vitiligo Skin Disorder (VSD), visit a good dermatologist. This may not be necessary for vitiligo patients whose first-degree relatives have no history of the disorder. Also, it is essential to see your skin specialist every 3–6 months for regular check-ups, as this will help spot signs early and take required treatment steps before they get worse.
11 . There are specific home remedies: It can help reduce the appearance of white spots on the skin caused due to vitiligo condition. Honey, lemon juice, garlic paste, etc., are some of the home remedies that can be used to treat lesions.
12 . Apply organic oil twice daily on affected areas of skin: Applying aloe vera gel, turmeric powder mixed with coriander juice, etc., can help reduce the white patches on the skin caused due to vitiligo disorder.
13 . Have some fresh papaya twice daily: It has antioxidant properties that help in improving immunity levels and may aid in faster recovery of discoloured patches of skin.
14 . Try having some fenugreek seeds: Soakedfenugreek overnight and then grind them into a paste along with water. Apply this paste on the affected areas for 10 minutes before washing off with lukewarm water. This will help quickly fade out the white patches caused due to Vitiligo Skin Disorder (VSD).
15 . Homeopathic treatment for vitiligo: It is based on the cause and symptoms, can be used to provide relief from vitiligo. The right kind of homeopathy doctor will help you manage vitiligo skin disorder effectively with homeopathy treatment for vitiligo as well as lifestyle changes. Homeopathic treatment for vitiligo treats the root cause of the disease rather than just providing temporary relief. You can book an appointment with a registered homeopathy doctor through OHO Homeopathy!