Vitiligo

Vitiligo hands

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview of vitiligo

Skin ailments are very common in all age groups and ethnic groups worldwide. Most of them are precipitated by environmental factors, hygiene and lifestyle conditions. A skin problem of very serious nature has been observed in the recent years in children and adults alike. It is known as “vitiligo” and is a particular category of genetic disorder. On an average, nearly 0.5-2% of the world population suffers from vitiligo. In India, the situation is more grave as 2-5% of the total population has the disease. The global health organizations are forming health units in different countries to spread the awareness related to vitiligo and also eradicate the social taboos of the disease.

 

What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo handsAlbinism or “hypopigmentation” is the scarcity of pigments in some portions of the skin. The condition may vary from a partial to a total loss of skin. More than half of the affected people show the signs before 20 years of age. It is basically an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system of the body attacks the skin cells mistakenly. The melanocytes in the skin cell are destroyed in the process. In many cases vitiligo is believed to be an outcome of genetic mutations, though this is still a matter of ongoing research. It must be noted that vitiligo is a non-communicable disease and is not transmitted through any kind of contact.

 

Is the disease same as albinism?

Many people seem to confuse between vitiligo and albinism, though there are certain marked differences between the two. Vitiligo is the whitish or pinkish discoloration of certain parts of the body, mostly the ones that are exposed. On the contrary, albinism is marked by a complete lack of pigments. The patients suffering from this disease have a uniform white discoloration throughout their body. Even the scalp, eyebrows, hair and the eyes lack pigmentation, a condition which is not seen in vitiligo. People suffering from albinism have a bluish discoloration of their eyes and are extremely photosensitive. Both the features are absent in vitiligo.

 

What causes the disease?

Vitiligo dnaVitiligo is an autoimmune disorder wherein the immune system wrongly identifies the melanocytes as harmful foreign materials and destroys them. The exact cause of the disease is unknown. However recent research works have shown that a major mutation in the human TRP-1 gene leads to malfunctioning of the Melanocyte Tyrosinase enzymes. This, in turn, impacts the process of melanin formation. Another enzyme responsible for vitiligo is tyrosine 3-monooxygenase that synthesizes melanin from the amino acid tyrosine. A child having vitiligo has one or both parents who are carriers of the defective gene. However, parents having vitiligo may have perfectly normal children in many cases.

 

Which parts of the body are affected?

The common sites of occurrence of vitiligo are as follows-

  • Hands and face (onset)
  • Eyes, nostrils, mouth, umbilicus, genitals
  • Armpits and groin (and other body folds)
  • An area of cut or burn
  • Areas close to some pigmented mole
  • Scalp (in dark-skinned people)

In some rare cases, the leptomeninges, the mucous membrane and the inner ear may also get affected.

 

How do the patients look like?

Vitiligo is characterized by white patches on different parts of the body. Following are the identifiable signs of the disease-

  • Irregular whitish patches where normal melanin pigmentation is absent
  • Pinkish or brownish spots on the white patches
  • Spots appearing unilaterally or bilaterally
  • Repigmentation in some parts of the affected skin giving the skin a nested look
  • Whitening of the hair follicles due to loss of pigmentation

 

Who are more likely to develop the disease?

Vitiligo usually occurs in people who have a familial history of similar diseases. One or both the parents should be carriers of the defective gene for the child to suffer from vitiligo. It affects people belonging to all genders, ethnicities and age groups. Dark-skinned people are more likely to develop the disease than the fair skinned ones. In Africa, 1 in every 5000-15000 people suffers from vitiligo or albinism. In general, people having any kind of autoimmune disease have higher risks of having vitiligo.

 

What are the commonly diagnosed types?

Vitiligo skinDepending on the extent of infection and the sites affected, vitiligo is of the following types-

  • Localised vitiligo: It is also known as “focal vitiligo” and is usually restricted to a particular area, commonly a non-dermatomal area.
  • Segmental vitiligo: It occurs unilaterally, that is, it appears only on one side of the body. It generally has a quasi-dermatological distribution. This category of vitiligo does not respond well to treatment and may require surgical intervention.
  • Acrofacial vitiligo: The white patches are seen in the fingers, toes, the perioral and the periorificial regions. Truncal lesions are usually not present.
  • Generalised vitiligo: It is symmetric in nature, that is if the right-hand palm has white patches, the same patches would appear on the left hand as well. It generally occurs at the site of pressure, friction, and trauma.
  • Universal vitiligo: It affects nearly 80-90% of the body surface.

 

Diagnostic tests

The first step in the diagnosis of vitiligo is a study of the family history of the patient. In the next step, the following laboratory examinations can be done-

  • Biopsy of the affected skin
  • Blood test
  • Eye examination

 

How can you treat the disease?

Vitiligo cannot be prevented but there are many treatment options available which assist in decreasing visibility of vitiligo.

  • Use of sunscreen: A sunscreen is recommended since lighter skin patches are particularly sensitive to sunlight and can burn easily. However, you should consult a dermatologist to get advice on sunscreen that will be suitable for you.
  • Phototherapy using UVB light: It is a common treatment option in which ultraviolet B (UVB) lamps are used.
  • Phototherapy using UVA light: In this treatment, the patient is given a drug which augments sensitivity of skin to UV light. After that, the skin is exposed to UVA light.
  • Depigmentation: If vitiligo covers more than 50% of the body then depigmentation is an option to select. In depigmentation, the skin color of unaffected parts is reduced so that it matches the color of whiter areas.

 

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Develop coping strategies since many people have vitiligo for life.
  • Do connect with others who are suffering from vitiligo as a coping strategy.
  • Protect yourself from sun’s rays by applying a sunscreen.
Don'ts
  • Develop a negative self-image.
  • Take any medication without consulting your medical practitioner.

 

 

 

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Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (G6PD) test Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) is an enzyme that is found in every cell of the body and it plays…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
woman with abdominal pain holding ovulation calendar
Ovulation – facts to know about ovulation Learn how and when ovulation occurs, demystify common misconceptions, identify symptoms, methods of detection and right period for…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
xylitol gum
Xylitol : Is this the right sugar substitute for you? Discovered during World War 2 owing to sugar shortage, xylitol has become a common name in pharamaceutical industry.…
Psyllium Husk: More than just an effective natural laxative Psyllium husk, or isabgol, is a popular natural laxative . But did you in addition to regulating bowels,…
Tart Cherry: The healthiest excuse for taking that second serving of pie Tart cherry has been traditionally used in delectable desserts such as pies. Recent studies have revealed that its…
Hydroquinone: Is it the best topical treatment for hyperpigmentation? Darkening of the skin due to high melanin levels is called hyperpigmentation.  Hydroquinone interferes with melanin production thus treating…
The Cabbage Soup Diet: The healthiest way to instant weight loss Cabbage soup diet rapid weight loss diet for those who want to shed those extra pounds in less…
sodium chloride
Halotherapy: How inhaling salt can work wonders for your body Halotherapy is quickly gaining popularity amongst those with respiratory diseases. It has shown promise in its treatment.
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
reflexology massage
Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could this be beneficial…
CERULOPLASMIN- triple marker
Triple Marker Test A triple marker test is an important prenatal test that is performed to detect the presence of chromosomal…
beta hcg test
Beta hCG Test A Beta hCG test measures the level of human gonadotropin hormones present in the blood that is primarliy…
piles fissure fistula
Allopathy vs homeopathy vs ayurveda treatment for piles, fissures, and fistula Read to know the best form of treatment among allopathy, homeopathy,or ayurveda for piles, fissures, and fistula
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
Anhedonia: Does the chronic inability to feel joy affect you too? How often do you feel dragged down by an invisible force? Do you feel an inexplicable emotional numbness…
How seitan proved to be a blessing in disguise for vegans worldwide Can only meat-eaters enjoy delicious juicy steaks and burgers? With seitan, the best meat substitute available today,even vegans…
10 reasons why you should up your selenium intake Selenium, though a trace mineral, is very much integral to your health. Find out how much selenium intake…
waterchestnut
Water Chestnuts: The tastiest ways to include this healthy tuber in your diet Water chestnut is not a nut after all. It is a tuber (much like the potatoes) growing close…
Vagus nerve: 7 health benefits of stimulating the “gut-brain” connection As a matter of fact, there are two vagus nerves namely the left and the right but is…
Urologist: When should you visit one and why? A urologist can treat not only genitourinary problems of both men and women but also can treat various…
Appendix pain: Recent findings on this not-so vestigial organ The exact function of the appendix is still not clear. Some consider it as an organ that once…
shakeology woman
Meal replacement or protein drink? Learn all about Shakeology and its claims Shakeology from Beachbody claims to be the most suitable shake that can aid in weight loss, regulate blood…
tonometry
Tonometry Tonometry uses a device called tonometer to measure the pressure inside the eye. This pressure is depends upon…
phenytoin test
Phenytoin test Phenytoin is a drug that is administered mainly to epilepsy patients. The phenytoin blood test measures the level…
fructosamine test
Fructosamine Test A fructosamine test measures blood sugar glucose content. Fructosamine level can indicate blood sugar level in past 2-3…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
antiHEV IgM test
Anti hepatitis E virus (Anti HEV) IgM Test Anti HEV IgM test determines the level of the IgM antibodies in the blood, The disease is often…
Holistic Healing: How does it harmonize your mind, body, and soul? Holistic healing is not one healing method, holistic healing encompasses a variety of techniques such as reiki, accupuncture,…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
lose weight fast
12 easy and instant steps to successful weight loss Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind? Does weight loss always mean saying goodbye to…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…
Moringa drink
Moringa: This could be the most nutrient-dense food known to us! Moringa is a lush green tree brimming with over 90 essential nutrients required for a healthy mind and…
Agave nectar: The bitter truth about this sweetener revealed Agave nectar is considered to be sweeter than the normal table sugar and even contains higher amounts of…
Bromelain: 11 reasons why you should start adding pineapple to your pizza! If you didn't love pineapples already, here are some of the top health benefits that bromelain can bring…
The right way to prepare Alfalfa sprouts at home Alfalfa or lusan ghas is not just a nutritious animal fodder. This flavonoid-rich herb has some amazing health…
biopsy procedure
Biopsy Biopsy is a procedure of studying a live tissue sample collected from a specific organ for diagnosing a…
ASTtest-liver
AST- Aspartate Aminotransferase Test AST test is a blood test that is used to measure the level of a particular liver enzyme…
hemoglobin variant analysis
Hemoglobin Variant Analysis Hemoglobin variant analysis is a blood test that is used to detect the presence of hemoglobin variants which…
valproic acid test
Valproic Acid Test Valproic acid test is performed to generally check for psychiatric and even neurological conditions such as bipolar disease…
malarial antigen test
Malaria Antigen Test A malaria antigen test is a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that can detect malarial antigens (proteins) in your…
apolipoprotein a1 test
Apolipoprotein -A1 (APO-A1) Test Apolipoprotein A-I (Apo-A1) constitutes 70% of protein content in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and helps in lipid metabolism.
Rheumatoid Arthritis xray
Arthritis Profile Arthritis profile is a panel of primarily blood tests used to detect the presence of arthritis or check…
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
acne removal tips
Anatomy of acne: 7 instant steps to kiss those zits goodbye Blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples-call them what you may. Acne is never good news.Did you know some of the…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
L-theanine attention
L-Theanine: Better sleep, higher focus, and many other benefits Did you know that L-theanine found in green tea can make you sleep better and be focused at…

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