Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder in the human skin. The human skin contains special skin cells (melanocytes) that produce the pigment melanin which colors the skin. In Vitiligo, the special skin cells (melanocytes) as well as the tissues (mucous membranes) that line the inside of the mouth, nose, genital and rectal areas, and the retina of the eyes are destroyed. As a result, white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body. The hair may also turn white that grows in areas affected by vitiligo.
What causes Vitiligo?
There are several theories regarding the cause of vitiligo (see the cause) but the actual cause is not fully known. According to one theory, people with vitiligo develop antibodies that, turn upon them and destroy their own melanocytes instead of protecting them. There is another theory according to which the melanocytes somehow attack and destroy themselves. Finally, some people with vitligo have reported that a single event such as severe sunburn or an episode of emotional distress is the main cause of this order. Scientifically, events of this nature have not been accepted as the main cause of vitiligo. These are merely coincidences.
Who is affected by vitiligo? The number of people affected by vitiligo disorder ranges from 40-50 million. It forms about 1 to 2% of people in the world. 2 to 5 million people have the disorder in the United States alone.
Vitiligo affects all races and both sexes equally and ninety-five percent of its victims are below the age of 40.
What is the association of vitiligo with autoimmune disease?
In Autoimmune diseases, a person's immune system reacts against the body's own organs or tissues. Vitiligo is found to be more common in people with certain autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune diseases that are associated with vitiligo include: hyperthyroidism (over activity of the thyroid gland), adrenocortical insufficiency (the adrenal gland does not produce enough of the hormone corticosteroid), alopecia areata (patches of baldness), and pernicious anemia (a low level of red blood cells caused by the failure of the body to absorb vitamin B12).
Is vitiligo inherited?
Vitiligo may be hereditary in some cases. Children of vitiligo affected parents are more likely to develop vitiligo disorder. However, most children will not get vitilgo even if a parent has it. Also most people with vitiligo do not have a family history of the disorder. Large number of inherited disorders are associated with vitiligo. They include: albinism of the ocular type, autoimmune polyendocrinopathy syndrome, congenital deafness with vitilego and achalasia, dyschromatosis symmetrica hereditaria, ermine phenotype, familial histiocyctic reticulosis, kabuki syndrome, and the syndrome of spastic paraparesis, vitiligo, premature graying and characteristic facies.
What are the symptoms of vitiligo?
White patches (de-pigmentation) on the skin are the foremost symbol of vitiligo. These patches are more common in sun-exposed areas, including the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. Other common areas are the armpits and groin, and around the mouth, eyes, nostrils, navel, and genitals. Vitiligo generally appears in one of three patterns: focal pattern, segmental pattern and generalized pattern. In focal pattern, the de-pigmentation is limited to one or only a few areas. In segmental pattern, de-pigmented patches are developed on only one side of the body. But in the generalized pattern, de-pigmentation occurs on different parts of the body.
In Ayurveda, Leucoderma is known as 'shivitr' or kilaas' - Appearance of patches on skin with white or red coloration without any kind of swelling, fermentation...
Leucoderma is a skin disease also known as white patch (the development of circumscribed de-pigmentred patches). There is complete loss of melancytes from the affected patch. There may be positive family history of the disorder in those generalized leucoderma and this type is associated with auto-immune diseases such as diabetes and thyroid.
'Leuco' means 'white' and 'derma' means 'skin', thus leucoderma means abnormal whiteness of the skin. This disease is usually very difficult to treat. If the patient and the physician treat this disease for a long time with patience, it is possible to cure it. During the treatment very small blackish spots appear in the white patches. These spots keep spreading and the skin gradually becomes normal. The abnormal whiteness disappears. In this way, the disease is cured. It is not an infectious disease. Only the skin becomes white.
In terms of Ayurveda:
According to Ayurveda this disease is known as 'shivitr' or 'kilaas' - the appearance of a patche on skin with white or red coloration without any kind of swelling, fermentation, and pus formation in it. The patch of de-pigmentation of the skin is generally surrounded with normal skin. The patch might spread extensively covering the entire skin surface.Pitta is the dosha, which is responsible for occurrence of this disease. When it is increased beyond the norm it affects rakt dhatu (blood), maas dhatu (flesh), maid dhatu (fat).
Causes of Leucoderma (Vitiligo)
Why do white patches appear? So far it has not been possible to find out what causes this problem. However, there are certain things which affect the human body and can cause white patches in the skin, which spread rapidly.
- When the quantity of melanin in the blood is reduced, the skin becomes white,
- chronic constipation,
- malfunctioning of the liver, jaundice,
- ailments of the stomach,
- diseases like typhoid which affect the stomach and intestines,
- chronic diarrhea,
- irregular food habits, indigestion,
- insufficient sweating,
- excessive mental tension or worries,
- tubercular constitution,
- hurt, burn,
- wearing clothes tight at the waist,
- problems of the ear, teeth and throat,
Leucoderma (Vitiligo) Management in Ayurveda:
Imbalance of Bhrajaka Pitta that colors the skin and can be compared to melanin causes blackening, pigmentation and discoloration of skin.
Grind five almonds and mix with 1 tsp of fresh cream and a few drops of lemon juice. Apply this paste to the face and neck. Leave on for about fifteen minutes.
Apply papaya juice, or mashed papaya to the affected areas.
Grind equal amounts of sesame seeds and turmeric in a small quantity of water, apply to the face or discolored skin.
Information provided in this article is for the sole purpose of imparting education on Ayurveda and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, please consult your physician.