What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo or 'safed daag' (in Hindi) or 'kod' (in Marathi) is an autoimmune condition where the skin loses its natural color and develops white or light skin-colored patches. In this condition, there is either destruction of the skin pigments (melanin: which gives normal color to the skin) or there is some defect in the production of skin pigments leading to the loss of normal skin color.
The exact cause is unknown, but genetic, hormonal, and immunological factors play an important role in the development of vitiligo.
The extent and rate of spread of vitiligo vary from case to case. Vitiligo can affect the skin on any location of the body. It may affect hair, mucocutaneous junctions (lips, corners of mouth, genitals, etc.)
In a few people, only a single white patch of vitiligo is observed, whereas, in some individuals, multiple spots can be seen all over the body. In some people, the single white spot remains as it is for years together without any spread or resolves on its own. In a few people, the rate of spread of this skin condition is rapid, unpredictable, and, over a period, may involve skin all over the body.
Vitiligo may present with other skin diseases, such as psoriasis, eczema, or lichen planus.
From the clinical point of view, vitiligo does not cause any damage or harm to any major organ or part of the body, and, hence, it is not a serious medical condition. A few people believe that vitiligo is contagious and may be life-threatening which is a myth. However, in many societies, vitiligo patients are not accepted easily and they have to face social discrimination by others. Due to this, vitiligo can significantly affect the person cosmetically, emotionally, and socially when the sufferer belongs to such a society, where the color of the skin is given importance.
As per scientific research around 50% of vitiligo sufferer show negative effects on their emotions, social life, and relationships. Therefore, it is important to make yourself, your family, and society aware about the disease and learn to accept it.
Homeopathic Treatment for Vitiligo:
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease. It is an external expression on the skin due to internal dysfunction at the level of the immune system. Hence, the treatment should be given to treat the root cause that is correcting the imbalance of the immune system rather than applying anything externally. Homeopathy believes in the same principle, and, hence, it offers excellent treatment in most of the cases of vitiligo.
How Can Homeopathy Help In Treating Vitiligo?
- Homeopathy tries to treat the root cause by correcting the dysfunction or overactivity at the level of the immune system.
- Homeopathic medicines control the further spread of vitiligo.
- It stimulates the skin pigments melanocytes to generate melanin and hence helps to regain the normal skin color. It also reduces the destruction of melanocytes.
- Homeopathic medicines are effective, safe and give a long-lasting relief without any side-effects.
- Vitiligo cases which are not extensive respond well to homeopathic treatment, whereas in extensive cases, control can be achieved.
How Homeopathy Works In Treating Vitiligo?
Homeopathic medicines are selected on the basis of the individualistic approach where a detailed case study is done on the basis of various factors, such as the nature and spread of vitiligo, affected areas of the body, past medical history, family history, associated diseases, environmental, emotional, and hormonal factors affecting a person, the past and current treatment, etc.
- It controls the further progression of the disease.
- It stimulates the natural process of melanogenesis (the process of melanocyte formation) and stops the destruction of melanocytes.
- In cases with the rapid spread of vitiligo, homeopathic treatment controls the progress or spread of vitiligo.
- Well-selected homeopathic medicines try to modify the genetic disposition.
- It treats after-effects of the triggers, which leads to vitiligo (environmental factors, emotional factors, etc.). Homeopathy prepares and elevates the immune system to cope up the after-effect of the triggering factors.
- If needed, homeopathic treatment may correct the hormonal imbalance in indicated cases (like in the case of thyroid disorders).
What Will Be The Duration Of Homeopathic Treatment For Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a chronic autoimmune disease and considered incurable by many practitioners, hence it may require long-term treatment.
The exact duration of the treatment cannot be predicted. As per our experience, after treating more than 7000 cases of vitiligo at Life Force, we can say that most of our patients begin to respond to the treatment in 4 to 8 weeks duration. As per our experience, most of the patients show improvement in the initial 4-6 months of the treatment in the form of re-pigmentation or slowing down the progress or spread of disease.
The total duration of the treatment may vary from over 8 months to two years or more.
The duration of homeopathic treatment for vitiligo depends on several factors such as:
- The number of white patches or the extent of the disease: Single or a very few white patches responds better and early than a large number of patches. Extensive cases of vitiligo may not respond to the treatment.
- Size of vitiligo patches: The patches which are smaller in size respond better than large-sized patches. Very large patches (more than 5 inches in size) may take a long time to respond or may not respond at all.
- Form of the disease: Early and milder cases of vitiligo may respond early. Moderate and spreading cases can take time to respond. Rapidly spreading cases may require long-term treatment for control.
a) Vitiligo affecting mucocutaneous junctions, such as white spots on fingertips, genitals, lips, corner of the mouth, corners of the eyes, eyelids, etc. may not respond to the treatment. This variety of vitiligo can be controlled after long-term treatment. At Life Force, we have seen improvement in a few cases of vitiligo affecting mucocutaneous junction after long treatment.
b) Vitiligo affecting only one side of the body (unilateral variety of vitiligo) responds better than vitiligo affecting bilaterally with the symmetrical involvement.
- Age of the patient: Children and young individuals respond better and early to homeopathic treatment for vitiligo.
- Other illnesses: Vitiligo patients suffering from other auto-immune diseases, such as autoimmune thyroid disease, diabetes, etc. may take time to respond.
- Family history: Vitiligo patients with a family history of other auto-immune diseases, such as vitiligo, diabetes, an autoimmune underactive thyroid, alopecia areata, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. may take a longer time to respond.
With Dr. Rajesh Shah’s expertise, extensive research and huge experience of treating over 7500 cases of vitiligo from over 180 countries at Life Force, here are a few observations we could make with regards to the treatment for vitiligo and the results achieved by it. These observations are made based on clinical experience. Results in individual cases may vary based on many other factors.
Cases where we can expect excellent result are listed below.
- Vitiligo cases of recent origin (within less than two years)
- In the case of children
- Cases with a very few, scattered, and sporadic spots (segmental vitiligo)
- Cases where there is no history of treatment like steroids (oral or local cortisone)
- If there is no strong family history of vitiligo or any other autoimmune disease
Cases in which we can expect very good result are listed below.
- Vitiligo of recent origin (Vitiligo cases within two to five years)
- The presence of very few spots
- No involvement of mucocutaneous junctions like fingertips, corners of the mouth, lips, and genitals, etc.
- If there is no history of use of steroids (oral or local cortisone)
- Cases with no strong family history of vitiligo or autoimmune diseases
Cases where we can expect a good result and better control are listed below.
- Vitiligo of recent origin (Vitiligo cases of two to five years)
- The moderate extent or spread of vitiligo patches
- No involvement of areas, such as fingertips, lips, and genitals, etc.
- If there is no history of the use of steroids (oral or local cortisone)
Cases with a family history of vitiligo
- Vitiligo patients having other associated autoimmune diseases like Underactive Thyroid, Diabetes, Alopecia Areata, etc.
Cases in which we can expect poor result but better control are listed below.
- Old cases of Vitiligo (more than 10 years)
- Cases with an extensive spread of patches. Cases with vitiligo patches on both the sides of the body, such as elbows, legs, around the eyes, fingertips, etc. i.e. (Bilateral affection)
- Vitiligo affecting areas like fingertips, lips, and genitals, etc.
- Vitiligo cases with a history of the use of cortisone, oral or local (steroids)
- Cases with a family history of vitiligo or other autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes, an underactive thyroid, Alopecia Areata, cancer, etc.
- Patients who suffer from associated autoimmune diseases like Hypothyroid (Underactive Thyroid), Diabetes, and Alopecia Areata along with vitiligo.
Cases in which we can expect a very poor result and no treatment is suggested are listed below.
- Old cases of vitiligo (more than 10 years)
- The extensive spread of vitiligo: Vitiligo with a bilaterally affecting variety. The presence of large extensive patches of vitiligo.
- In case of vitiligo affecting corners of the mouth, fingertips, lips, genitals, etc.
- The history of the use of steroids like cortisone either oral or topical.
- Vitiligo cases having a family history of extensive vitiligo or other autoimmune diseases
- Patients who suffer from associated autoimmune diseases, such as Hypothyroid (Underactive Thyroid), Diabetes, Alopecia Areata, etc. along with vitiligo.
Commonly Prescribed Homeopathic Medicines For Vitiligo:
The selection of homeopathic medicines is based on many factors and individualized case-taking. Self-medication is not advisable in the case of a chronic autoimmune condition like vitiligo. Strategic treatment under the guidance of expert homeopath is recommended for the treatment of vitiligo.
Some of the commonly prescribed homeopathic medicines for vitiligo are:
Arsenicum Sulfuratum Flavum, Hydrocotyle Asiatica, Carcinocsin, Syphillinum, Kali carbonicum, Silicia, Calcaria phosphorica, Phosphorus, etc.
Prevalence Of Vitiligo:
- Vitiligo affects 2%-3% of people around the world. In India, around 8% of the population is affected by vitiligo.
- Vitiligo can affect people of any age group, gender, and socio, economic, or ethnic group. It is more commonly seen in Indian and Mexican population.
- Vitiligo may run in families, as genetics is one of the common factors in vitiligo.
Causes of Vitiligo:
The exact cause for vitiligo is unknown. However, it has been observed that autoimmunity plays an important role in the causation of vitiligo. As per our experience at Life Force, multiple factors may play a role as triggers in vitiligo. They are listed below.
Due to the internal imbalance of the immune system, our very own body cells try to destruct melanocytes (melanin-producing cells), and, hence, this affects the production of melanin. In turn, it affects the normal skin color.
Certain other immunological factors, such as neuropeptides which are released in the response to physical or emotional injury (skin injury, stress, etc.), may affect melanin production.
In many cases of vitiligo, multiple triggering factors or maintaining causes may lead to the imbalance of the immune system.
2. Family history or genetic factors:
Vitiligo may run in the families, which suggest genetic tendency as a causative factor in vitiligo. 20%-30% of people having vitiligo have a family history of vitiligo.
As per our observation at Life Force, the patients having extensive vitiligo or presenting with a bilaterally symmetrical variety of vitiligo have a strong family history of vitiligo or any other autoimmune diseases, such as underactive thyroid or diabetes, psoriasis, lichen planus, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
3. Hormonal factors:
Hormonal disorders may also act as a triggering factor for vitiligo. Hormonal disorders, such as thyroid disorders (underactive thyroid, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), may be present simultaneously with vitiligo in many patients suffering from vitiligo. At Life Force, all the patients of vitiligo are suggested to get their thyroid profile (T3, T4, TSH) done at regular interval.
Injury to the skin cells may also lead to the destruction of melanocytes or may act as a trigger for an immunological reaction in the body leading to vitiligo.
Injury to the skin due to trauma, bruises, sunburn, and other skin diseases, such as psoriasis, eczema, or lichen planus, may also trigger vitiligo.
5. Chemicals or drugs:
The exposure to industrial chemicals, long-term contact with chemicals, wearing a certain type of hand gloves, and using a certain type of drugs for a long time may trigger the onset of vitiligo.
6. Psychological factors:
Psychological factors, such as prolonged stress in the form of grief, frustration, depression, anxiety, suppressed emotions, and guilt, may lead to an imbalance in the functioning of the immune system and act as a trigger for vitiligo.
Symptoms Of Vitiligo:
The typical symptom of vitiligo is the development of milky white depigmented spots or light-skin-colored depigmented spots.
The number of patches: Depending on the extent of the spread of vitiligo, the number of white patches may vary from a single patch to multiple.
The shape of patches: It is variable from round to irregular in shape.
Location of patches:
- Vitiligo patches may appear on any location of the body.
- In some patients, only a few patches are observed on the part or segment of the body (Segmental)
- Sometimes, the patches are seen only on one side of the body (Unilateral).
- Some cases may present with de-pigmented patches all over the body (Generalized).
- Depigmentation of the entire skin (Universal) may be seen in some cases.
- In some patients, the hair on the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, mustache, beard, etc. may turn grey suggestive of a loss of melanin pigment at the roots.
- In some cases, mucocutaneous junctions are involved that may include finger-tips, corners of the mouth, genitals, around the eyes, lips, etc.
Spread Of Vitiligo:
It is very difficult to predict the pace at which vitiligo may spread, but it may depend on several factors, such as heredity, hormonal factors, and other physical and emotional factors.
In a few patients, the spread is very rapid from one white spot to multiple spots. In a few cases, a few spots remain as it is for a long period. A few may show an intermittent spread of the disease.
The Presence Of Other Skin Diseases:
In some patients, vitiligo may present along with other skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, and lichen planus.
Diagnosis Of Vitiligo:
1. Clinical evaluation: With the help of a detailed medical history and physical examination, your doctor diagnoses the condition as vitiligo
2. Wood’s lamp examination: A special lamp is used to examine your white patches under ultraviolet light which may further help to confirm the diagnosis.
3. Skin biopsy is advised to rule out other skin diseases.
4. Blood tests: Some blood tests are advised to rule out other associated autoimmune conditions, such as an underactive thyroid, diabetes, anemia, etc.
Supportive Treatment (Diet, Lifestyle, & Exercises) For Vitiligo:
Certain dietary factors and other lifestyle changes may help in the recovery from vitiligo along with a proper medication
Foods To Avoid:
1) Avoid sour food or food which is rich in vitamin C in your diet:
- Avoid lemonades, lemon, oranges, tomatoes, sour fruits, etc.
- Avoid pickles, sauces, ketchup, raw mango, curd, etc.
- Avoid over-fermented foods, such as over-fermented idli or dosa batter, sweets, etc.
- Avoid foods which contain vinegar and soy sauces like Chinese food
2) Avoid seafood
- Avoid fish, prawns, crabs, lobsters, and shrimps in your diet.
3) At Life Force, we encourage vitiligo patients to avoid non-veg food, foods with artificial colors and preservatives, canned foods, etc. for a better recovery.
4) Avoiding a gluten-rich diet and milk helps an overall recovery.
Foods To Include
1) Include fresh fruits (not sour), vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Eat vegetarian food.
2) Include diet rich in vitamin B12, folate, and zinc.
- Get exposure to the early morning sun rays for 15-20 minutes daily.
- If you want to go out in the sun between 10 am to 4 pm, use a good sunscreen.
- Avoid using unnecessary cosmetics and external applications without consulting a doctor.
- Avoid injury or tattooing your skin.
- Learn about your disease and make others aware of it.
- Learn some destressing techniques: Meditation, yoga
Conventional Treatment For Vitiligo:
1) Topical ointments:
Topical steroids are the first choice of treatment for vitiligo in the conventional treatment which may help to regain the normal skin color temporarily but it has its side-effects.
- Corticosteroid ointments
- Tacrolimus or pimecrolimus ointments (immunomodulatory)
2) Oral steroids
Steroids in any form either local, oral, or in the form of injections may help temporarily in treating vitiligo. In many cases, on stopping the steroids, the white patches on the skin may reappear, and they may develop with more intensity and turn more difficult to treat.
3) Combination psoralen and light therapy (UVA or UVB)
This treatment is a combination of a plant-derived medication called psoralen with light therapy (photochemotherapy) to darken the affected skin. This method has its side-effects.
- Skin grafting: In this procedure, a small portion of normal, pigmented skin is attached to the depigmented area. This procedure comes with the risks of infection, scarring, or failure of re-pigmentation.
- Blister grafting: In this procedure, blisters are created on pigmented skin, with the method of suction, and then they are transplanted to discolored skin.
- Tattooing (micro-pigmentation): In this technique, with the help of a special surgical instrument, pigments are implanted into depigmented skin. It's most effective in and around the lips in the people with darker complexions.
Our Experience In Treating Vitiligo At Life Force:
Since the last more than 30 years, Dr. Rajesh Shah has been treating several varieties of the cases of vitiligo from 180 plus countries worldwide. We have successfully treated and documented more than 9000 cases of vitiligo including segmental vitiligo, bilateral symmetrical vitiligo, vitiligo affecting mucocutaneous junctions, vitiligo with a single patch, vitiligo with a few multiple patches, etc. We have also treated mild, moderate to severe or extensive cases of vitiligo from different parts of the world.
After treating a variety of cases of vitiligo, we can say that vitiligo with a few spots, mild to moderate in severity, and recently diagnosed cases of vitiligo responds quite wonderfully to the homeopathic treatment. In old, extensive, and rapidly spreading cases of vitiligo, the result may vary. In such cases, the control on the spread of disease can be achieved effectively by using homeopathic treatment.
In the cases where there is a recent use of steroids, the patients may take time to respond or may not respond in a few cases. The patients who suffer from other associated autoimmune diseases may also take time to respond to the homeopathic treatment.
The response to homeopathic treatment varies from case to case and, for that, each case needs a detailed individualized analysis of the case.