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New Delhi, 25 June 2018: About 2% to 5% of the Indian population is affected by vitiligo, a condition which has deep social stigma attached to it. This is primarily because in people affected by vitiligo, white spots or patches appear on the skin. On World Vitiligo Day, there is a need to create awareness on the fact that although it is a medical condition, vitiligo is not contagious. There is an urgent need to remove such myths and accord equal respect and help to those with this condition.
Vitiligo is a skin disease that occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in skin die or lose their function. Due to this, the normal skin color is lost, and the person develops pale, depigmented skin patches that can affect any part of the body, including the mouth, hair and eyes. It is more noticeable in people with darker skin.
Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr K K Aggarwal, President, Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI), said, “Vitiligo results from an autoimmune process directed against the melanocytes and is often associated with other autoimmune disorders, including autoimmune thyroid disease, pernicious anemia, systemic lupus erythematosus and Addison disease. People with this condition are looked down upon in India, thinking that any kind of contact can result in them acquiring this condition. Hundreds of those with vitiligo are subjected to bullying, social stigma, disability, and psychological trauma. What exacerbates this problem further is that the condition is progressive. Treatments are available that may improve the appearance of the skin but presently there is no cure.”
Vitiligo has six sub-types: generalized (most common and characterized by widespread macules and patches that are often symmetrically distributed); acrofacial vitiligo (involves areas surrounding body orifices and extensor surfaces); segmental; focal; mucosal; and universal.
Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “The diagnosis for vitiligo is based upon the clinical presence of depigmented patches of skin. Examination with a Wood lamp is useful for highlighting areas of pigment loss on light skinned patients. Treatment is based upon re-pigmentation therapies, which include topical and oral corticosteroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors, ultraviolet light (PUVA and narrowband UVB), and skin grafting techniques.”
Some tips from HCFI
• Apply sunscreen and cover your body parts whenever venturing out in the sun between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. However, the early morning sun rays can help in stimulating skin pigment cells and benefit patients.
• While bathing, use mild soaps and gently scrub the skin. Sometimes friction can trigger the onset of new patches.
• Avoid chemical-based products like deodorants or perfumes directly on skin. A good alternative is to use them on clothes instead.
• Yoga and meditation can help you in overcoming the mental and emotional burden of this disease.
• A diet rich in copper inclusive of spinach, mustard greens, and sesame is good. One can also drink water stored in copper vessels. Also ensure that your diet has enough of Vitamin B12, folic acid, and pantothenic acid.