Taking good care of your skin can be enough work already, but for those with vitiligo, skin care can become more complicated. Vitiligo is a skin condition caused by the death or loss of function of melanocytes, the type of skin cells that produce melanin. Melanin is responsible for giving colour to our skin. When melanin is no longer present in the skin, we end up white patches, and the characteristic appearance of vitiligo. While not life-threatening by itself, the loss of melanin in vitiligo can increase the absorption of UV rays, and make someone more at risk for sunburn and skin cancers.
There are many reasons why a person might develop vitiligo. Possible causes include exposure to UV rays, contact of certain chemicals with the skin, and stress. Researchers don’t completely understand why melanocytes sometimes die or stop working, but they do know that genetics can play a role. Your risk of developing melanin go up if you have a blood relative with vitiligo, or an autoimmune condition.
Unfortunately, vitiligo does not have a permanent cure. However, there are vitiligo treatments available that can reduce the size and appearance of vitiligo spots on your body. If you’re looking to avoid side effects from corticosteroid creams, such as streaking and thinning of the skin. there are a few alternatives from natural medicine. Some treatments may be more effective for one person’s vitiligo than another’s, so it’s important to talk with your health care professionals and try different treatments if you haven’t found the right one.
Your doctor, naturopath, or other health practitioner may be able to provide:
- A form of vitamin D, sometimes called calcipotriene, applied topically to affected areas
- Light therapy
- Laser therapy
- Folic acid
- Vitamin B-12 and B9- Copper
There are also herbal medicines to use at home. Remember to consult with your practitioner or pharmacist to avoid herbs that may interact with medicine you are already taking, or that may worsen other conditions that you have.
Some supplements to try:
- Ginko biloba
- Vitiligo Organics™ or other prepared treatment
- Radish seeds, ground and soaked overnight in water. Apply to affected areas and allow to dry before removing.
- Leadwort root, made into a paste and applied to affected areas
No matter which treatment you decide to try, you should also be protecting your skin from further damage using an effective sunblock with an SPF of at least 30. You may also find that covering affected areas from the sun can also help.
When you are first diagnosed with vitiligo, you may be tested for other autoimmune conditions. One way that melanocytes can get destroyed is by your body’s immune cells, so there may be other autoimmune activity elsewhere in your body. It’s important to make sure you take care of the rest of your body before you start to treat the appearance of white patches. It’s also important to have emotional support from those around you; studies have shown that emotional support is necessary for a stress-free and easy recovery.
With the right treatment and lifestyle, vitiligo can be a manageable condition, with little effect on your daily life.