Vitiligo, or white patches, is a pigmentation disorder. In this condition, the cells that make the pigment, melanin, and provide our skin its colour are destroyed. The outcome is white patches on the skin and in different parts of the body — including the inside of the mouth and nose, the inner layer of the eyeball, or retina. Vitiligo can affect the hair too, turning them white.
Vitiligo affects men and women equally; it may also run in families. Research suggests that individuals with a family history of vitiligo are at increased risk. Other triggers that may enhance the threat are extreme stress and autoimmune syndromes, such as disorders of the thyroid gland. Vitiligo is not a life-threatening problem, but it can be extremely stressful. It is not uncommon for women with vitiligo to be discriminated against in matrimony. If vitiligo affects one after marriage, it is often a strong ground for separation.
Vitiligo affects not only one’s psychological well-being, familial or social life, but also one’s career and self-esteem. More so, when white patches appear on visible areas of the body — face, hands, arms, and feet. Adolescents can be shattered by vitiligo; others may feel as much humiliated, miserable, depressed, or apprehensive as to how other people react, or look at them.
Kanchan (45) presented with white patches affecting her forearms and legs. She had taken homeopathic treatment earlier, but in vain. She complained of unusual weight gain and lethargy. I advised her to get her thyroid tests done — the diagnosis was obvious, hypothyroidism. I now prescribed her Thyroidinum, a homeopathic medicine, for six weeks, following which her white patches started repigmenting. She started feeling much better overall; she also lost weight and regained her self-confidence.
Nearly 30 per cent of individuals suffering from vitiligo may have an underlying illness like hypothyroidism, or diabetes. Homeopathy believes that it is imperative for one to look out for clinical symptoms of such disorders, especially in cases of vitiligo that do not respond to treatment. In Kanchan’s case, her low thyroid levels proved to be an obstacle to healing. When this was corrected, her white patches responded quickly and favourably to homeopathic treatment.
Published in Times of India on 29 August 2010