Have you noticed light-colored patches on anyone's or your own skin? It may be the sign of onsetting Vitiligo, an auto-immune skin disorder.
Vitiligo can start at any region on your skin and gradually spread across the body. In this article, let’s understand in detail about the Vitiligo condition, its causes, symptoms, and how Ayurveda helps to control it along with other reliable treatment options. Read on.
What Is Vitiligo?
In simple terms, Vitiligo is a skin condition that involves discoloration of the skin. It happens when the melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) in your skin stop functioning . It can be developed in people of all skin types and the loss of color starts in small patches, which gets bigger with time.
"Besides the skin, Vitiligo can also occur inside the mouth and hair," says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, our Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.
Types Of Vitiligo
1. Universal Vitiligo
In this type, nearly 80% of the body gets depigmented and turns white. It is the rarest form of vitiligo condition.
2. Generalized Or Vulgaris Vitiligo
In this type of Vitiligo, you may notice light color patches appearing in symmetrical patterns in many areas of your body.
3. Segmental Vitiligo
In this type of Vitiligo, white patches appear in one segment or one side of your body such as one leg or one arm. Segmental Vitiligo usually develops in young people.
4. Localized Or Focal Vitiligo
In this type of Vitiligo, white patches appear either in one or a couple of spots on your body.
5. Acrofacial Vitiligo
In this type of Vitiligo, lightening of skin happens on hands and/or feet along with the face. Mostly, the white patches appear near lips, nose, eyes and ears.
Studies reveal that almost 75% of Vitiligo cases are of Acrofacial type and mostly occur in people with darker skin complexion.
What Does Vitiligo Look Like?
Vitiligo looks like few or many pinkish or whitish patches in irregular sizes and shapes on your skin. It may start as a small spot called ‘macule’, which may later spread to cover a larger area on your body.
Generic Symptoms Of Vitiligo
- Loss of skin color in patches (usually, starts on the face, hands, or areas around the body openings)
- Loss of color in the mucous membranes  inside your nose and mouth.
- Premature greying of hair on your scalp, beard, eyebrows, or eyelashes.
"In Vitiligo, it’s very difficult to figure out how the disease will progress. In most cases, the discolored patches spread to most of the body parts. Sometimes, it may stop spreading even without any treatment. Sometimes, the original skin color may get restored too," says Dr. Zeel.
What Triggers Vitiligo?
In Ayurveda, Vitiligo is called 'Shwetakusta or Shwitra'. It is caused by the aggravation of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas in your skin, muscles, blood, lymph, and udaka (the watery element in your body).
The variation in elevated doshas results in different grades of Vitiligo:
- When Vata is elevated, Vitiligo patches appear in red with a dry and rough surface.
- When Pitta is elevated, Vitiligo appears in coppery red or pink shade and is associated with burning sensation and hair loss.
- When Kapha is elevated, Vitiligo patches are in dense white color and associated with itching.
"While Vata dominant Vitiligo is easy to cure, Kapha dominant Vitiligo is the most difficult type to treat," says Dr. Zeel.
Below are some of the triggering factors that lead to dosha imbalances in your body, which result in Vitiligo:
- Autoimmune reactions destroy melanocytes or impair the production of melanin
- Excessive intake of incompatible foods
- Genetics or heredity
- Thyroid problems 
- Emotional distress
- Severe sunburn
- Skin trauma caused by chemicals, etc.
How To Cure Vitiligo?
1. Ayurvedic Treatment For Vitiligo
A. Ayurvedic Purification Therapy
Ayurvedic treatment for Vitiligo starts with detoxification therapy, which helps in restoring healthy digestion and calming down the imbalanced doshas to a great extent.
It includes the following procedures which are administered by Ayurvedic doctors based on your elevated doshas and severity of the condition.
- Snehana or oleation which involves the application of medicated ghee and oils on your body for 3 to 7 days.
- Swedana or sudation which involves inducing sweat in the skin with herbal steaming.
- Shodhana which involves emesis or purgation processes.
B. Topical Herbal Applications
Lepana or external application of herbs is the second step involved in Vitiligo treatment and Ayurveda recommends using lepas (paste) made of any of the following herbs based on your elevated doshas:
C. Rasayanas And Supplements
Below are some of the classic Ayurvedic rasayanas prescribed by Ayurvedic doctors for treating Vitiligo:
- Arogyavardhini vati
- Mahatiktaka ghrita
- Gandhaka rasayana
- Shwitranashaka lepa
- Avalgujabijadi lepa
- Neem guard
- Somraji taila
- Raktashodhak vati
D. Ayurvedic Diet Recommendations
- Prefer having light meals
- Include gourd family vegetables such as bottle gourd, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, etc. regularly in your diet
- Consume green gram regularly
Foods To Avoid
Below are some of the foods containing depigmenting agents such as hydroquinones, which you need to avoid when you have vitiligo condition:
- Wheat products
- Red meats
- Fruits such as pomegranate, pears, grapes, citrus fruits, blueberries, etc.
- Tubers and roots such as carrot, potato, black gram, etc.
- Spicy and pungent pickles
E. Yoga Asanas Recommended During Vitiligo Treatment
- Shirshasana (headstand position)
- Pawanmuktasana (knee to chest position)
- Pranayama (breathing exercise)
2. Topical Home Remedies
- Apply 2-3 drops of neem oil on the patches using a cotton ball. Wash it off after half an hour. Repeat daily.
- Prepare a paste by adding a spoon of mustard oil into a spoon of turmeric powder. Apply it to the affected area and wash it after half an hour. Repeat thrice a week.
- Prepare a paste by mixing a spoon of redclay and a spoon of freshly made ginger juice. Apply it to Vitiligo patches and rinse it off after half an hour. Repeat thrice a week.
- Grind a spoon of radish seeds into a fine powder and add 2-3 spoons of apple cider vinegar into it. Mix well and apply the paste on the patches. Rinse it off after half an hour. Repeat thrice a week.
- Rub the Vitiligo patches with a few drops of black cumin oil daily.
Vedix Tip: Taking Ginkgo biloba herbal supplements may help to reduce the white patches on your skin. You can take the pills as per the dosage prescribed by your doctor.
3. Conventional Medical Treatments
Based on the rate of progression of the condition and how much skin is affected, doctors may prescribe the following treatments for Vitiligo:
- Inflammation controlling drugs such as corticosteroid pills, injections, or creams
- Calcineurin inhibiting creams such as pimecrolimus or tacrolimus
- Phototherapy with a narrow band of UVB rays
- Photochemotherapy in combination with a plant-derived compound called psoralen
- Topical application of depigmenting agents to unaffected areas of skin to make it even-toned with Vitiligo patches 
- Skin grafting
- Blister grafting
- Cellular suspension transplant
Your doctor may suggest approaching the condition with a combination of different treatments mentioned above. However, some of these treatments have serious side effects such as dry skin, redness, itching, swelling, scarring, etc. Also, some of the medications have a risk of causing skin cancer. Hence, you need to talk to your doctor about the scope of benefits and possible risks associated with conventional medical treatments for Vitiligo.
How To Prevent Vitiligo?
Though it is very difficult to prevent Vitiligo, below are certain precautionary steps you can take to reduce the risk of development of the condition:
1. Always use sunscreen with SPF above 30 before stepping out during day time. This helps to avoid sun damage to your skin.
2. If the Vitiligo patches have already started, shielding them from UV rays with adequate clothing or dermatologically approved concealers may prevent further skin damage and spread.
3. Stay away from inking or getting tattoos on your skin, especially if Vitiligo runs in your family. Skin damage occurring during tattooing may trigger the appearance of discolored patches.
4. Drinking water in copper utensils and eating foods that are cooked in cast-iron vessels may help to prevent the recurrence of Vitiligo.
5. Include immune-boosting foods which contain beta-carotene, antioxidants, and phytochemicals in your diet regularly.
6. Drink adequate amounts of water daily.
7. Avoid consumption of alcohol and quit smoking.
How To Diagnose Vitiligo At Home?
At home, you can evaluate the occurrence of Vitiligo by noticing the light-colored patches on your face, arms, hands, feet, and legs (generally, the sun-exposed areas of your body).
However, it is always better to consult a dermatologist when you develop such white patches on your skin. The doctor diagnoses the condition by examining your skin physically using a lamp and you may need to undergo a skin biopsy and blood tests for further evaluation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Vitiligo
How Does Vitiligo Start?
Vitiligo starts as a pale patch with irregular or smooth edges on your skin, which turns completely white gradually. If Vitiligo occurs in the areas loaded with blood vessels under the skin, then the patches start to appear in light pink.
Is Vitiligo Contagious?
No. Vitiligo is not a contagious condition. Most of the vitiligo patients are as healthy as everyone else.
How To Stop Vitiligo From Spreading?
Though there is no solid cure for Vitiligo, you can prevent it from spreading with regular treatments. ‘’Especially in the cases where the affected area is less than 10% of the body, topical treatments may help in controlling the progression of Vitiligo,’’ says Dr. Zeel.
What Age Does Vitiligo Start?
One may develop Vitiligo condition at any age. But usually, half of all the vitiligo cases occur between the ages of 10 and 30 years. In very rare cases, Vitiligo occurs by birth.
What Vitamins To Take For Vitiligo?
Vitamins play a very important role in the functioning of your skin pigment cells. Intaking of vitamins such as vitamin-C, E, B12, D, and folic acid helps people with Vitiligo alongside the other treatment regimens .
We strictly advise you to take any of the Vitiligo treatments mentioned in this article only as per the guidance of a certified dermatologist or an Ayurvedic consultant.
The Last Word
Unlike conventional medications which give short-term results, consistent Ayurvedic treatments for Vitiligo can give you long-lasting results. As Ayurvedic treatments are followed based on individual dosha-imbalances, genetic and medical history, the herbal formulations focus on correcting the underlying damaging factors in your body that trigger the condition. We hope these effective treatments can help you in managing Vitiligo effectively.
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