Leucoderma, also termed as vitiligo, is a common skin disorder affecting a percent or more of the world's population. It is a distressing skin disease wherein the sufferer develops white patches on face, hands, legs, and other areas of the body due to gradual loss of the pigment melanin from the skin layers. The condition can be embarrassing, especially in people who have dark skin, as these white patches look extremely ugly.
The condition is more commonly seen in women than men, and the most affected areas are hands, neck, back, and wrist. It can occur in people of any age or sex, and is neither infectious nor contagious. Research show that majority of these cases are seen in people below the age of 40 years, and nearly 30% of them acquire this skin disease through heredity. Hence, contrary to the popular belief, vitiligo does not occur due to any bacterial or viral infestation, or bad blood. The causes, symptoms, and treatment of leucoderma are given in the paragraphs below.
The actual cause of this condition is still unknown, but surely, beliefs like eating unhealthy or wrong food combination like fish and milk, pumpkin and milk, onion and milk, or any citrus or acid foods after milk are not the reasons. This problem mainly occurs when the skin stops producing melanin, a skin pigment that protects the skin from harsh sun radiations. As a result, the skin areas that are deprived of this pigment start appearing white. However some of the probable causes include:
- Skin trauma
- Excessive thinking or mental stress
- Chronic gastric disorders
- Burn injuries
- Presence of parasites in the alimentary canal
- Defective perspiratory mechanism
- Other illnesses like diabetes, hyperthyroidism and Addison's disease
This disorder appears to be odd, harmless, and has no other signs except white patches or spots on the skin. The whiteness on the skin usually begins with small white or brown spots, which either increase in size or are gradually followed by a few other similar spots in other areas of the body or around the initial area of discoloration. The white or hypopigmented skin is margined or outlined by dark or hyper pigmented demarcations. These spots may either spread slowly or very fast throughout the body. Apart from these signs, some others are given below:
- Alopecia or loss of hair
- Premature graying of hair
- Along with skin, the hair growing on the affected skin also turns white
- Sensitivity towards cold
- Weakness and fatigue
- Skin irritation when exposed to sun's rays or chemicals
Though there is no specific treatment for this infection, homeopathy and some home remedies so far are considered to be the two effective options that can improve the condition to a great extent, especially during the initial stages. Homeopathy does offer a good improvement for white patches by turning the patches dark to normal skin color, and preventing more white patches or spots from occurring. However, the course and success primarily depends upon the severity of the condition, i.e., the duration, extent, and the patient's susceptibility towards the patches. Apart from this, there are several home remedies that are also useful in improving the condition.
- The best home remedy is the psoralea (babchi) seeds steeped in ginger juice for 2 - 3 days. The juice should be renewed daily, and the seeds, after removing the husks, should be dried in shade and then powdered. Having one gram of this powder with a cup of fresh milk for one and a half months can be useful in treating this condition. You can also try rubbing the powder on the white patches.
- Likewise, equal quantities of babchi and tamarind seeds, stepped in water for 3 - 4 days, shelled and dried in shade, and then grounded into paste when applied on the white patches for a week or so can help turning the white patches in to dark.
- Red clay found by the river side or on the hill slopes, mixed with equal proportion of ginger juice and applied once in a day on the spots can also help to bring back the skin pigmentation.
- Another useful remedy is the use of turmeric and mustard oil. Soak overnight 500 gms of turmeric in 8 kg of water. Next morning, heat the mixture till one kg of water is left, and then, after straining, mix 500 gms of mustard oil. This mixture should again be heated till one kg of oil is left, and then, should be applied on the white spots twice a day for a couple of months.
- Seeds of radish (around 35 gms) when grounded with 2 tsp of vinegar and applied on the spots is also quite effective in bringing back the skin pigmentation.
- Likewise, goosefoot is another useful remedy. The vegetable should be consumed twice a day, morning and evening, for two months consistently. Its juice can also be applied on the spots.
- Apart from these remedies, the patient should make healthy dietary changes, like avoiding tea, coffee, alcoholic beverages, all condiments and highly-flavored dishes, sugar, white flour products, denatured cereals, like polished rice and pearled barley, and canned or bottled foods. Also, eating a healthy balanced diet comprising seeds, nuts, grains, vegetables, and fruits is also useful in reducing the risks of having this skin disorder.
However, some people quite often mistake temporary white patches on the skin, which disappear in a week or so for this disease. Hence, before drawing any conclusions, it is better to ascertain your condition by a dermatologist who will, after diagnosing your condition would recommend necessary treatment. I hope the information given in this article proves to be useful in understanding this skin disorder in a better way.