What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo also known as leucoderma, which simply means white (leuco) skin (derma), i.e. a disorder where the skin loses its normal coloration. It is also medically known as achromia, which means loss of color.

Basically, Vitiligo can hardly be called as a disease but a skin-disorder that has more social than medical significance, especially amongst the dark skinned people. Due to destruction of the melanin (pigment) cells due to lesser known processes (largely what is called as an auto-immune disorder) the normal skin starts loosing pigments from various parts of the skin, in a varying speed and extent. Our clinical experience based on the treatment of over 4500 cases, suggests that there is a strong genetic factor in the background of most cases, especially those who have extensive vitiligo or those who have vitiligo affecting the finger-tips, toes, lips or the genitals. The indication of strong genetic factor is observed in the form of family history of one or more of the auto-immune diseases such as vitiligo, diabetes, hypothyroid, alopecia areata, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or allergies.

The vitiligo sufferers are observed all over the world, including the white skin communities. However, epidemiologically most cases are recorded in India (8.8%) and Mexico. Estimated 1-2% of the Americans have vitiligo as per the survey made by the American Academy of Dermatology. Males and females are affected equally, inclusive of children age group. It may begin at any age. Childhood vitiligo is not uncommon.

Causes

The exact cause for the pigment disorder remains unknown. However, there are theories suggesting

  • Autoimmune links
  • Hormonal connections
  • Genetic tendencies
  • Neural theories
  • Autocytotoxic theory etc.

There are factors, internal and external, which either predispose or trigger or maintain the process which leads to development of vitiligo.

The familial incidence of 20 to 30% is observed in the family members. If one or more of the parents have vitiligo, there are more chances of one developing the same. However, it is not a rule. At the same time, numerous cases of vitiligo do not have a relevant family history of Vitiligo.

We have made an important observation through a study that most patients with vitiligo has one of the family members (father, mother, grand parents on either side, uncle, aunt or siblings) suffering from one or more of the following diseases:

  • Vitiligo
  • Hypothyroid
  • Diabetes
  • Alopecia areata
  • Cancer
  • Other auto-immune disease.

A study at our center also shows that the patients who have either extensive vitiligo or those developing vitiligo spots on both sides of body (bilateral symmetrical) have a strong genetic element.

Symptoms

The typical appearance of Vitiligo is a milky white de-pigmented spot or spots. It may vary from a single white spot to multiple spots. The shape too is a variable. In some cases generalized de-pigmentation observed all over the body. It has a tendency to start as a single spot and gradually grow in size and number. It may present with a single or several spots on limbs or abdomen or back and then spreading to other parts of the body. Some cases showing affection of the muco-cutaneous junctions such as finger-tips, corners of the mouth, private parts, around eyes. The spread of the disorder is usually slow and progressive. Symmetrical appearance on both the sides of the body (say, on the legs, hands, etc.) is common. In rare cases one finds vitiligo spreading all over the body.

Associated Skin Disorders

At times, you may find Vitiligo associated with one or more of the following conditions:

  • Alopecia Areata (Loss of hair)
  • Premature graying of the hair
  • Lichen Planus
  • Lichen sclerosus
  • Psoriasis
  • Halo Naevus
  • Ichthyosis

Associated Systemic Disorders

There are several systemic diseases (affecting the entire body system), which are at times associated with Vitiligo:

  • Thyroid Disorders (Hypo and Hyperthyroidism)
  • SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus)
  • Pernicious Anemia
  • Addison's Disease
  • Collagen Diseases
  • Grave's Disease
  • Diabetes Mellitus

It may be noted that the sufferers of Vitiligo need not be unduly scared of the above disease conditions, as they should not be regarded as the complications of Vitiligo in every case.

What are chances of recovery?

The chances of recovery or regimentation in case of Vitiligo depend on several factors. Based on our extensive study and research, we would like to share some of our observations with you.

Cases which can find excellent results:
  • Cases of recent origin (less than two years)
  • Children
  • A few, Scattered and sporadic spots
  • No history of use of cortisone, oral or local
  • No strong family history of Vitiligo
Cases which can find very good results:
  • Cases of recent origin (Vitiligo of two to five years)
  • Fewer spots
  • No affection of finger tips, lips, and genitals.
  • No history of use of cortisone, oral or local
  • No strong family history of Vitiligo
Cases which can find good results and better control:
  • Cases of recent origin (Vitiligo of two to five years)
  • Moderate spread
  • No affection of finger tips, lips, and genitals.
  • No history of use of cortisone, oral or local
  • History of family history of Vitiligo
Cases which can find poor results but good control:
  • More than ten years old cases of Vitiligo
  • Extensive spread. Bilateral affections.
  • Affection of finger tips, lips, and genitals.
  • History of use of cortisone, oral or local
  • History of family history of Vitiligo

It may be noted that above information is based on clinical observation. There are many factors which influence the course and treatment of Vitiligo, which is out of the scope of this article. The above remarks give broad idea to the patients about the prognosis of Vitiligo.

Treatment

Homeopathy offers proven treatment for the cases of vitiligo which do not have extensive spread.

Homeopathic treatment works in the following manner:

  • Controlling the spread of Vitiligo by attempting to correct the immune system
  • Enhancing the natural melanocyte formation (melanogenesis)

What does the treatment do?

The Homeopathic treatment helps achieve:

  • Enhances melanocyte formation by stimulating the natural process called melanogenesis
  • Controls genetic disposition by using miasmatic medicines
  • Treats after effects of environmental factors such as exposure to chemicals
  • Treats aftereffects of emotional stress which may have triggered the disease process of vitiligo
  • Corrects the hormonal imbalance such as Underactive thyroid (hypothyroid)
  • Helps body cope up with stress and emotional pressures
  • Individualistic approach whereby every patient is treated based on one's case