A quick look about Vitiligo

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Published: 23rd March 2011
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Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes the cells that make pigment in the skin are cracked. As a result thus patches appear on the skin in different parts of the body. Alike patches also appear on both tissues that line the inside of the mouth and nose and the retina. The hair that grows on areas affected by vitiligo sometimes turns white.


The cause of vitiligo is not known, researchers have numerous different theories. There is strong proof that people with vitiligo come into a group of three genes that make them susceptible to depigmentation. The most widely accepted view is that the depigmentation occurs because vitiligo is an autoimmune disease a disease in which a person's immune system reacts against the body own organs or tissues.

Vitiligo may also be inherited; that is, it can run in families. Children whose parents have the disorder are more likely to develop vitiligo. In fact, 30 percent of people with vitiligo has family member with the disease. However, only 5 to 7 percent of children will get vitiligo even if a parent has it, and most people with vitiligo do not have a family history of the disorder. Scientists do not know the reason for the association between vitiligo and these autoimmune diseases. However, most people with vitiligo have no other autoimmune disease.

0.5 to 1 percent of the world's population, or as many as 65 million people, have vitiligo. Half the people who have vitiligo develop it before age 20; most develop it before their 40th birthday. The disorder affects both sexes and all races equally; however, it is more noticeable in people with dark skin


Vitiligo generally appears in one of three patterns:

Focal pattern depigmentation limited to one or only a few areas called mild Vitiligo

Segmental pattern depigmented patches that develop on one side of the body called moderate Vitiligo

Generalized pattern the most common pattern. Depigmentation occurs symmetrically on both sides of the body called severe Vitiligo

Focal pattern vitiligo and segmental vitiligo remain localized to one part of the body and do not spread. There is no way to predict if generalized vitiligo will spread. For some people, the depigmented patches do not spread. The disorder is usually progressive, however, and over time the white patches will spread to other areas of the body. For some people, vitiligo spreads slowly, over many years. For other people, spreading occurs rapidly. Some people have reported additional depigmentation following periods of physical or emotional stress.

People who develop vitiligo usually first notice white patches on their skin. These patches are more commonly found on sun-exposed areas of the body, including the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. Other common areas for white patches to appear are the armpits and groin, and around the mouth, eyes, nostrils, navel, genitals, and rectum.

In addition to white patches on the skin, people with vitiligo may have premature graying of the scalp hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, and beard. People with dark skin may notice a loss of color inside their mouths.

How is vitiligo diagnosed?

The diagnosis of vitiligo is made based on a physical examination, medical history, and laboratory tests.

To help confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may take a small sample (biopsy) of the affected skin to examine under a microscope. In vitiligo, the skin sample will usually show a complete absence of pigment-producing melanocytes. On the other hand, the presence of inflamed cells in the sample may suggest that another condition is responsible for the loss of pigmentation.

Emotional and psychological aspects

Regardless of a person's race and culture, white patches of vitiligo can affect emotional and psychological well-being and self-esteem. People with vitiligo can experience emotional stress, particularly if the condition develops on visible areas of the body (such as the face, hands, arms, and feet) or on the genitals. Adolescents, who are often particularly concerned about their appearance, can be shocked by extensive vitiligo. Some people who have vitiligo feel uncomfortable, mortified, miserable, or anxious about how others will react.

While vitiligo is generally not damaging medically and causes no physical pain, its emotional and psychological effects can be shocking. In India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, especially women, are sometimes discriminated against in wedding.

Available treatment options of Vitiligo

The main goal of treating vitiligo is to improve appearance. Therapy for vitiligo takes a long time-it usually must be continued for 6 to 18 months. The choice of therapy depends on the number of white patches; their location, sizes, and how widespread they are; and what you prefer in terms of treatment. . Current treatment options for vitiligo include medication, surgery, and adjunctive therapies are now available but these therapies are not suitable for every patients.

These are some of the most commonly used:

1- Topical steroid therapy.

2- Topical psoralen photochemotherapy.

3- Depigmentation.

4- Autologous skin grafts.

5- Micropigmentation (tattooing).

6- Psoralen photochemotherapy.

7- Oral psoralen photochemotherapy

8- Surgical therapies

9- Skin grafts using blisters.

10- Autologous melanocyte transplants

In addition to medical and surgical therapies, there are many things you can do on your own to protect your skin, minimize the appearance of white patches, and cope with the emotional aspects of vitiligo:



Counseling and support.

Food for Vitiligo Patients

Vegetables like Green Leaves, Beetroots, Spinach Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Carrots

Fruits: like Peaches and Apricots apple, banana mangoes, black dates etc

Grains: Whole grains like porridge whole wheat products are better than the highly refined carbohydrates like pasta.

Pulses & Legumes: Chickpeas have recently been shown in India to be very helpful in vitiligo

Protein: Vegetable proteins especially from Soya beans have been found useful for controlling the skin depigmentation. Animal proteins like meat and fish are however generally discouraged by the herbalists.

Oils and fats: Vegetable oils like Olive oil are rich in good fats keep you healthy anyways.

Nuts: are also very useful because of a high content of vitamin E and the "good fats" that are beneficial for skin.

Non-Veg: Traditional herbalist believe that people with vitiligo should also avoid from eating Non-Vegetarian foods like Fish and Red Meats, as they may be highly antigenic and may worsen the auto-immune process. It is better to avoid even the Eggs, Milk, and Dairy products

Alcoholic and Flavored drinks as well as Ice Creams and Chocolates,are not good for most of the people whether or not they vitiligo and are best avoided.

The so called Junk food & Spices are also discouraged in vitiligo people.

Sour Foods like pickles, sour yogurt and sour strawberries are also considered to be risky.

Vitiligo is presently at the vanguard of research and many new and revised recommendations are likely to develop in near future, and this article shall be sporadically updated.


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