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Vitiligo is a chronic skin condition that causes the pigment in your skin to become light or white. This occurs because of a lack of melanin, a pigment that gives color to your skin. When the pigment is gone, your skin becomes lighter or completely white. Vitiligo typically shows up as patches of discoloured skin. The size and appearance of these patches vary from person to person. Some people develop a few small areas, while others develop large masses of affected skin.
What skin changes does vitiligo cause to the skin?
Vitiligo affects pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. Here are the changes that you can see in your skin:
- Patches of discoloured skin. The patches can be any size. They may stay the same for years or slowly get larger or smaller. White patches are flat, and the skin is without any hair.
- Smooth, milky-white patches may be painful and itchy (called “segmental vitiligo”). The affected areas may also break out in red bumps. Segmental vitiligo is most common among children and usually occurs on one side of your body, such as your arm or leg. This type is thought to be inherited (passed down through families).
- Patches of lighter skin with more color than normal skin due to sun exposure (“acquired”). Most people who develop this type first notice that their skin gets splotchy and lighter after exposure to the sun. This happens because your skin makes less pigment as you age, but exposure to the sun can speed up the process.
- Skin color changes in patches of customarily pigmented skin (“focal”). Focal vitiligo usually appears on a tiny area such as your cheek or finger. It is often triggered by an event such as a physical injury, severe sunburn, viral infection, thyroid problems, or certain emotions like stress or excitement (called “stress-exacerbated pigmentary alteration”).
- Some people with vitiligo also experience discoloration of Hair follicles, nails, pupils of the eyes
What causes skin changes in vitiligo?
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease. It means your immune system attacks parts of your body, which are healthy. In the case of vitiligo, your immune system destroys an essential protein that gives color to the skin called melanin. No one knows precisely what causes this attack on your melanocytes or why it sometimes affects just specific areas. It often appears on both sides of your body at once (called “bilateral”). Vitiligo does not cause any other symptoms besides pigment loss. However, some people with vast areas of discolored skin may be sensitive to sun exposure and have dry, scaly patches on their skin.
What medical problems could someone with vitiligo have?
Except for discoloration of the skin, vitiligo has no other effect on your health. It does not cause any other symptoms or lead to any medical problems. For most people with white patches on their skin, vitiligo is just a cosmetic issue. But in some cases, loss of pigment may affect how you feel psychologically and emotionally. A person’s perception of their appearance can significantly affect self-confidence and self-esteem. When the body image disturbance is severe, it can be called “cosmetic disfigurement” or “body dysmorphic disorder.” Some research suggests that about 1 out of 3 people with vitiligo report feelings of depression, with 1 out of 10 people with vitiligo developing thoughts of suicide. People with body dysmorphic disorder may seek treatment for their skin discoloration and, in rare cases, even undergo unnecessary and potentially dangerous procedures such as bleaching creams and laser therapy (used to make skin color darker).
Are there any other skin changes that occur with vitiligo?
Yes. Vitiligo often goes along with other skin conditions such as:
- Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes dry patches of thick, red skin covered with silvery scales. The most common locations are the knees, elbows, and scalp. Psoriasis may also occur on the nails or in the mouth or genitals.
- Alopecia areata: This condition causes round hair loss patches that affect different body parts.
- Atopic dermatitis: This type of eczema causes rashes that develop into oozing and crusty sores. It usually affects the insides of the elbows, knees, hands, feet, or scalp.
- Premature gray hair: Vitiligo sometimes causes a person’s hair to turn gray prematurely.
- Increased skin sensitivity: Some people with vitiligo may have a skin reaction called dysesthesia, which causes the skin to feel numb or tingly.
What can be done to treat skin changes from vitiligo?
There is no way to re-pigment the skin once it has become entirely white. Treatment for vitiligo focuses on restoring as much pigment as possible.
- Topical medications: Creams, ointments, lotions, or “bleaching” agents are applied directly to the white patches of skin.
- Topical medications with ultraviolet light: Some treatment options combine a topical medication with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light in the doctor’s office.
- Drug therapy: Immunomodulators are drugs that affect your immune system by decreasing parts of it that cause disease or increasing factors that fight it.
- Other treatments: People may also try using makeup, sunscreen, or camouflage to cover up white patches of skin.
Can vitamin D help treat people with vitiligo?
Yes. Research suggests that taking oral supplements of vitamin D may improve the appearance of patients with moderate disease. More studies are needed to prove this theory and determine how best to use vitamin D therapy to treat vitiligo. In addition, physicians should consider prescribing vitamin D supplements as adjunctive treatments for vitiligo patients with clinical signs of deficiency such as muscle aches and fatigue, which can be associated with low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (also called calcidiol).
What are the natural ways to prevent skin changes in vitiligo?
Here are the ways to prevent further vitiligo changes n the skin:
- Sun avoidance: Because sun exposure may make vitiligo worse, people with vitiligo should stay out of the sun as much as they can.
- Sunscreen: Some studies suggest that regular sunscreen use can prevent or delay new white patches from forming on the skin. This is most effective when started early in the disease and used every day for at least a few years after diagnosis.
- Daily care: People with vitiligo should avoid scrubbing or scratching their skin to reduce inflammation and itching, eventually leading to more pigment loss if left untreated. It is best to use your hands instead if you have to scratch your skin.
- Sun protective clothing: Wear long sleeves, pants, hats, scarves, or other clothing to cover the skin.
- Avoid trauma: It is best to avoid injury or trauma to your skin because it may cause pigment loss in the area of the damage.
- Skincare products: There are many topical preparations to help with dry, scaling skin and even promote repigmentation of the skin that are available over-the-counter (OTC) or by prescription from your dermatologist or primary healthcare provider.
- Cosmetics: People can wear cosmetics if they wish to camouflage their white patches of skin.
- Self-esteem support: Some people may benefit from counseling to deal with the emotional stress of having a visible skin condition such as vitiligo. This can be provided by a dermatologist, psychologist, or psychiatrist experienced in treating diseases that cause loss of pigmentation.
- Vitamin supplementation: People with vitiligo should take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to help maintain good health and proper nutrient balance.
- Vitamin D: People who live in sunny climates, especially if they have lighter skin color, may not need vitamin D supplements unless they are vitamin D deficient on blood tests indicating low serum levels 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
What are the possible complications of vitiligo?
People with vitiligo may face some complications such as:
- Sunburns or other skin injuries can lead to loss of color (hyperpigmentation) in areas of skin exposed to sun or trauma. If severely injured, there may be permanent white patches on the skin. These areas of lost pigment do not tan when exposed to the sun.
- Some patients find it psychologically distressing when their hands, feet, eyes, nose, mouth, genitals, or other body parts are affected by the disease.
- Stress is often reported in vitiligo patients, primarily when the disease affects visible areas of the skin.
- Vitiligo can affect a person’s ability to obtain specific jobs or pursue career choices. Some studies have found that people with vitiligo may earn less money than their unaffected peers because employers sometimes view them as “unhealthy” by employers who do not understand the condition and its treatment options.
- There is no way to predict which body parts will be affected by vitiligo or how pigment loss will progress over time.
- Feeling stressed or depressed about having this condition may lead to alcohol abuse or suicidal thoughts in some individuals.
- People with vitiligo should be aware that over-the-counter skin lightening creams, bleaches, or tretinoin cream can worsen their condition by increasing pigment loss.
- Vitiligo patients will also need to protect themselves from injury and sunburns by using sunscreen and wearing clothing against ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- For younger children, this may help them adapt to vitiligo because it makes them feel less different than peers who do not have the same type of skin changes.”
Can we use alternative treatments for vitiligo?
There are many alternative treatments for vitiligo that have shown effective results over time. These are:
- Dietary supplements, vitamins, and minerals:
Several dietary supplements and vitamins may offer support for fighting inflammation that can contribute to the cause of vitiligo. Vitamins such as A, B-complex, C, D, and E are essential components supporting overall health and immunity.
- Laser therapy:
Laser therapy uses “cold” light to stimulate the pigment cells beneath the skin. The treatment causes little discomfort. It is not painful, although some patients may experience a prickling or stinging sensation during the procedure.
- Phototherapy (light treatment):
In phototherapy, a medication known as psoralen is applied to the skin. The patient then receives exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light or sunlight. This treatment can slow or stop pigment cell damage. It is used for all types of vitiligo but works best on stable patches of vitiligo.
- Herbal Remedies:
Some alternative treatments for vitiligo include herbal remedies such as aloe vera gel or grape seed extract, which improve the immune function and thus speed up the process of repigmentation.
- Homeopathic treatment for vitiligo:
- Homeopathic treatment for vitiligo is one of the most effective treatments for Vitiligo. The treatment of vitiligo is a specialized subject. The body system should be treated separately because homeopathic medicines are supposed to work on the principle of “Totality,” which means treating the patient as a whole instead of focussing on one area or part only. Homeopathic treatment includes constitutional medicine, emotional and mental symptoms, nutritional deficiencies, and anti-allergic medications.
- People with homeopathic treatment for vitiligo may notice a repigmentation in their skin when they stop the treatment. This can be because when homeopathic medicines are taken, it stimulates the body’s immune system and, in turn, improve the body’s ability to heal the dermatological problem. The patient starts feeling better, and there is a surge in his overall health, which may translate into some repigmentation of the affected areas of the skin.
- Homeopathic treatment for vitiligo can have long-lasting results if taken correctly and under proper guidance from a homeopathy doctor. In some people, one treatment may be enough to stop the progression of the disease. In other people, several treatments are required to halt further fading. Long-term treatment is not only necessary for repigmentation but also to eliminate the dermatological problem. The duration can range from 6 months to two years or longer depending on how severe the condition was initially and how long it has been present.
- Homeopathic treatment for vitiligo is effective, gentle, and safe. It not only helps in repigmentation but also enhances the body’s immune system to cure the root cause of the problem. Along with homeopathic medicines, healthy lifestyle factors like eating healthy food, stress-free life, and physical activity should be incorporated to achieve the best results.
You can visit a registered homeopathy doctor through OHO Homeopathy if you are interested in homeopathic treatment for vitiligo. You can book an appointment with a doctor online for a free consultation at OHO Homeopathy.