By Dr Simantini Sakherdande
Every year, June 25 marks World Vitiligo Day, which aims to raise awareness and educate the masses about the health condition known as vitiligo, in which melanocytes are responsible for the appearance of white patches on the skin or mucus membranes of affected individuals.
An autoimmune condition in which the body's immune system destroys pigment-producing cells, vitiligo affects between 1% and 2% of the world's population. In Goa, too, there are individuals who are affected by this condition.
This is a disorder associated with social stigma, particularly in people with dark complexions.
Although vitiligo is not a medically significant condition (it does not cause organic injury), it causes a significant psychological burden on the patient and their family members. Young women have to endure a higher social stigma and suffer due to marriage concerns.
WHAT CAUSES VITILIGO?
This condition has been linked to a variety of causes, including:
GENETIC FACTORS: 30% of the people diagnosed have a family history of vitiligo
AUTOIMMUNE: The individual may have a history of other autoimmune disorders such as diabetes or thyroid disease
STRESS: This problem may be exacerbated by stress
NEUROGENIC FACTORS: Studies have shown that toxins released at nerve terminals damage melanocytes
SYMPTOMS OF VITILIGO
White spots develop on various parts of the body or on mucus membranes such as the lips and genitalia. Hair in the affected areas may also become white. The size and quantity of these patches may or may not increase.
Vitiligo is either localised (segmental) or generalised (non-segmental), and can occur at any age. It is not related to any other symptoms.
The recent Coronavirus disease caused a number of new and intense dermatological conditions. Since the onset of the Covid-19 epidemic, the incidence and prevalence of vitiligo has increased.
The cause could be a viral illness, therapeutic medication, immunisation used to prevent the disease, or the psychological effects of the pandemic.
Patients with pre-existing auto-immune illnesses are more likely to develop Covid or Covid vaccine-related vitiligo.
While there is no definite cure for vitiligo, various treatment approaches have demonstrated promising outcomes. Modern medications and/or procedures can aid in controlling vitiligo symptoms to some extent.
It is also critical to create a strong support structure for those afflicted with this condition, as well as teach effective coping methods and prevent social isolation.
Dr Simantini Sakherdande is a Consultant Dermatologist and Cosmetologist at Manipal Hospitals, Goa