Vitiligo can be treated

KATHMANDU: White patches, uneven skin colour or simply skin discolouration can be developed in people of any age and sex. “There is a loss of skin colour (melanin) from the normal texture of the skin when someone suffers from vitiligo,” informed Dr Eliz Aryal Rajouria, Consultant Dermatologist at Kathmandu Medical College and Teaching Hospital, Sinamangal. The immune system in one’s body starts attacking melanin and as a result s/he suffers from the skin discolouration.

The detail

This discolouration is usually acquired. It could be due to viral infections, stress, change in immune system, however exact cause for the disease remains unknown. It is auto immune and can occur at any age. It could be genetic as well. “If there is a family history of vitiligo then there is usually 20 to 30 per cent chances for the offspring to get the disease, but it is not necessary,” Dr Rajouria informed.

White patches isn’t only a symptom of vitiligo but can be a signifier of some other systemic problems such as anaemia, thyroid, and diabetes. This is why blood test is necessary for those suffering from skin discolouration to find out the cause for white patches.

Whenever one suffers from vitiligo then there is skin pigmentation resulting in milky white skin. It can be seen in any part of the body. “But whenever there is a cut or trauma the pigmentation can increase. This is why one must be careful as the wounds aggravate the white patches,” shared the doctor. White patches can be progressive in some while it might not be in others. Those with single patch do not need to worry but those whose patches are progressive in nature and must consult the dermatologist immediately as it can spread in the whole body.

If the white patches are on the exposed areas such as arms, face, neck and legs then one must prevent the skin from sun burn. “To prevent their skin from reddening and sunburn patients can use umbrella, apply sun screen lotion and wear full sleeved clothes,” Dr Rajouria suggested.

Depression: A major outcome

There is no pain and itchiness and no difficulty if there is vitiligo. It is just one of the cosmetic problems. But people often go into depression when there is a change in their skin colour. So some lock themselves up into a room, lose their self-esteem and commit suicide. But one must refrain from this as it is natural for some to lose the skin colour. The family must be supportive of the patients in such times. “Michael Jackson too was a patient of vitiligo. But nothing stopped him from becoming popular,” exemplified the doctor.

In Nepal

Out of the 100 patients visiting the OPD services of dermatology there is at least one patient of vitiligo as per the doctor. Both medical and surgical treatments are available for the patients. Oral tablets and phototherapy are given in the initial stages but surgical methods of skin grafting and melanin transfer are used in the later stages. “If there is vitiligo in old age in bony areas such as elbow, or in lips tips, finger tips or genital areas then there is no good prognosis of the disease. But the disease can be cured during the young ages. Sooner, the better,” informed Dr Rajouria. But one must have patience to see the results as the treatment needs at least a minimum of six months to years.

Debunking the myths

Myth: Vitiligo is aggravated by sour foods, milk and other white foods.

Fact: There is no relationship of the disease with the foods. Therefore, it is useless to deprive one with the foods like curd, milk, lemon pickles and tomatoes. Rather foods rich in protein should be given to the patients. Vitamin deficiency too can lead to vitiligo. Eat foods rich in vitamins.

Myth: There is no cure for vitiligo.

Fact: No. The disease spread can be controlled and medications can help restore lost skin colour. It can be treated by phototherapy, skin grafting, medications, surgery et cetera.

Myth: It is contagious.

Fact: Vitiligo is not contagious. It isn’t transmitted through touch, sharing belongings or sexual intercourse.

Myth: All white patches on the skin are vitiligo.

Fact: No. White patches can be formed due to fungal infections, chemical reactions, eczema, sun allergies et cetera too. One must consult the dermatologist for an early diagnosis and detection of the disease.

Myth: People think it leads to leprosy.

Fact: Vitiligo has no relation with leprosy. But if there is a loss of sensation or tingling in the areas around the patch then it could be leprosy.

Myth: Mental dysfunction leads to vitiligo.

Fact: There is no connection of vitiligo with mental functions.