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Vitiligo: Doctors for early treatment for better results

| | New Delhi | in Sunday Pioneer

Early treatment of vitiligo—an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system misfires against its own melanocytes (the cells that give our skin its color), causing white patches— can deliver better and quick results, dermatologists have said.

According to an estimate, of the 1 per cent of world’s population suffering from vitiligo, 8.8 per cent of the cases i.e. around eight crore are recorded in India, 25 per cent of them are children.

And, since, vitiligo can leave a patient under immense emotional stress — feeling isolated and depressed as the disease is often equated with leprosy, early treatment becomes all the more necessary, they said.

In vitiligo, colour-producing cells are lost from areas of skin, leaving behind white spots. The spread of de-pigmentation is unpredictable, ranging from days to years. Since, there are no accurate treatment for the disease, mostly therapeutics are available to address this unmet medical need, said dermatologist Dr Devesh Mishra.

Seemal R Desai, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in his blog says that the advantage of catching this early is when the skin is just lighter and not fully depigmented.

Vitiligo treatment goals are to stabilise the disease process, add pigment back and maintain this effect. Certain steroid creams cool inflammation and ointments containing tacrolimus or pimecrolimus (calcineurin inhibitors) may also be effective, he says. In some cases, therapy can lighten the unaffected skin so that it blends better. Light therapy and/or surgery is also options, he added.

Much hopes are also from the National Chemical Laboratory and Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), both labs of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) which in June inked a patent licensing pact with Pune-based Ahammune Biosciences for developing the drug to arrest the progress of Vitiligo and to induce repigmentation of depigmented patches.

Pharmaceutical companies are also promoting herbal products for treatment of vitiligo. The poly-herbal drug, 'Lukoskin', developed by the scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under the Union Defence Ministry is now under marketing and commercial production by Delhi-based AIMIL Pharmaceuticals India Ltd.

The ointment has seven herbal ingredients having properties such as skin photo sensitizer, anti-blister, anti-irritation, anti-septic, wound healing and copper supplementing properties while the oral dose has been formulated to check the emergence of new spots, said KK Sharma of AIMIL Pharma.

While in medical science, vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder, ayurveda categorises it as kustha. The most common causative factor is inappropriate food combinations or 'opposite diet' which is the result of our fast-paced lifestyle, according to the ayurveda experts.

Gaurang Joshi, an ayurveda skin specialist and the Director of the Atharva Multispeciality Ayurveda Hospital, Rajkot said vitiligo is caused by the aggravation of pitta dosha, an Ayurvedic humor which symbolizes heat or fire, and is manifest in the skin. Aggravated pitta leads to accumulation of ama(toxins) in deep layers of the skin, leading to the condition of leucoderma.

Treatment consists of pacifying imbalanced body energies, cleansing the blood and administrating herbs that restore the skin's natural color. An essential part of treatment is restoring digestion through correct diet and lifestyle adjustments to prevent recurrence of the disorder, says Joshi.

Dr Ravish Kamal, of Ayurhealthline said that ayurveda is a herb based treatment which basically acts on the root cause of the disease and there is much possibility of successful vitiligo treatment. The herbs acts on pigment producing cells to get colouration over white patches, he added.

Unani researcher Dr MA Waheed with his team at the Central Research Institute of Unani Medicine (CRIUM), a premier research body of the Union Ayush ministry has developed Unani formulation which is drawing huge response. According to Dr Waheed, "Gujarat and Rajasthan have the highest prevalence in terms of patients seeking treatment. But if the patients, who do not seek medical attention, are also included then the incidence of leucoderma is very high in the coastal areas of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat." 




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