Vitiligo (vit-uh-lie-go) commonly called as ‘leucoderma’ is a condition in which there is a development of milky-white patches on the skin. Millions of people of all races and ethnicities worldwide have Vitiligo. It occurs in 0.5-2% of the general population. Vitiligo usually affects the skin on the body but other areas such as the scalp, lips and genitals can also be affected. Patches of hair can turn white. It develops because colour producing cells in our skin called melanocytes, die. Multiple factors such as genetics, a faulty immune system which attacks its own cells (auto-immunity), and increased free radical-induced damage (oxidative stress) may be causative.
Certain factors such as skin injury and severe sunburn can cause development of new patches in a predisposed individual. There are some factors which have been implicated in aggravating Vitiligo, though no definitive proof has been found for any of these; they include emotional stress, pregnancy and illness. Deficiencies of vitamin B12, folate, copper and zinc have been associated. Those affected with Vitiligo may also be prone to other autoimmune diseases like Thyroiditis, Alopecia areata and pernicious anaemia. Those whose parents have Vitiligo and associated autoimmune diseases are more likely to get it as compared to the general population. Though in most cases there is no family history of the condition. Anyone can get this skin disorder.
[Read: Living with Vitiligo]
It is very important to understand that Vitiligo is a skin disease and not an embarrassment. The Vitiligo-effected person must take the following precautions:
• Avoid undue trauma to the skin like scratching or rubbing vigorously as this can trigger new patch formation.
• Protect affected areas from the sun as they can burn easily. Avoid undue sun exposure, wear protective clothing and use sunscreen usage of SPF 30 and above liberally.
• Have a balanced diet, cut down on junk and processed foods, stop smoking and reduce alcohol consumption to reduce the oxidative stress on the body.
• Foods rich in natural antioxidants such as nuts, berries, fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables can strengthen the free radical scavenging system of the body.
• Exercise, meditation or yoga can help defuse some of the stress that comes with the condition.
Dr. Rickson Pereira is a Consulting Dermatologist at Dr. Minal’s Dermatherapie Centre.
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