The highest number of the skin disorder vitiligo cases prevail in the Indian subcontinent

With most of the cases of vitiligo, an auto-immune skin disorder, found in the Indian subcontinent, measures are now being taken for bringing in new and advanced treatments for the disorder by the end of the current decade.

Vitiligo is a chronic auto-immune skin disorder due to which patches of skin lose their pigment or colour. It happens when melanocytes, the skin cells that produce the pigment, called melanin, are attacked and destroyed. It results in the skin having a milky-white colour.

Indian subcontinent has the highest of vitiligo cases in the world, nearly 8.8 percent.

According to Dr Vikram Vora, medical director, Indian Sub-Continent, International SOS, a health and security service firm, the patches formed due to the disorder don’t have a definite size and shape and go on to expand. He says ” There may be sensitivity and itching in these areas and the loss of pigment can also affect the hair, leading to premature greying. Signs of emotional distress may become evident as the affected individual notices a change in appearance”.

What causes vitiligo on the skin ?

Image Source: Cleveland Clinic

As mentioned before, vitiligo is an auto-immune disorder in which the body destroys itself in parts. Why this happens is still unanswered but genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a major role.

Nearly 20 percent of people with vitiligo have at least one familial relation who have this condition . As per research, a certain genetic profile makes a person susceptible to it. 30 varying genes have been identified that are linked to the disorder, two of them are named NLRP1 and PTPN22, according to Medline Plus , an online service providing information on topics regarding healthcare.

The genes identified are further associated with immune-system regulation and inflammation.

Environmental factors are believed to generate an auto-immune response which destroys melanocytes. These factors can be sunburn, exposure to certain chemicals, trauma or injury to the skin, as per an article in F1000 Research, an online platform publishing research work in different fields.

The environmental factors can also cause vitiligo to further spread in people who would already have the disorder.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people with an existing auto-immune disease are highly susceptible to the disorder. The auto-immune diseases could be namely, psoriasis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Hashimoto’s disease, alopecia areata and likewise.

Many genes linked to vitiligo are also associated with auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid, arthritis, type 1 diabetes and thyroid, as per NIAMS.

Medline Plus observed that 25 percent of people having vitiligo were also suffering from other auto-immune conditions.

According to Dr S. Madhuri, Consultant Dermatologist at KIMS ICON Hospital, ” Prolonged consumption of protein and copper minerals by Indians are the other major reasons.” Nearly 40 percent of patients have vitiligo due to drug usage.

Vulgaris, the most common type of vitiligo is found on the lower and the upper limbs of the body.

What is the cure ?

Image Source: Saikia Skincare

There is not really a medicine to treat vitiligo but certain drugs can reduce the speed of loss of pigmentation, aid in the renewal of melanocytes due to which the colour to the skin is restored.

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy is a treatment which to an extent stops the loss of colour. For the purpose, light boxes or UVB rays are directed towards the skin for a short period of time. It can take multiple sessions of phototherapy for preventing the loss of colour.

Another method of treatment is the depigmentation therapy. Quite opposite of phototherapy, it removes the colour of the natural skin tone to sync it with those areas of the skin that are affected by vitiligo. This treatment makes use of the drug monobenzone. When applied, it turns the skin light to make the the tone even.

Surgery can be opted for treatment too. There are two methods of surgery applied to treat vitiligo- skin grafting and blister grafting.

In the process of skin grafting, a part of the skin is taken and is used as a cover for another part. However, it comes with its set of side effects such as scarring, infection and failed repigmentation.

For the process of blister grafting, a blister is made on the skin by suction, then the top of the blister is removed to attach it to the part of the skin which is affected by vitiligo.

As of now, certain treatments are being researched upon, such as making use of a drug which would revitalise the cells which produce colour. Along with this, a gel is being created for restoring the skin colour in people whose skin has not lost much colour.

By the end of the current decade, the methods of treatment are expected to become advanced and bring into use technology such as robotics and light rays which would be safe for people with sensitive skin type.

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