Indian Subcontinent Has World’s Highest Rate Of Vitiligo
HYDERABAD, (IANS) – The term “vitiligo” refers to the loss of color on the skin, resulting in a loss of pigment and melanin. World Vitiligo Day is observed on June 25 each year to raise awareness, promote a positive attitude, and normalize vitiligo.
A recent observational study conducted by the Indian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology in December 2022 revealed that the Indian subcontinent has the highest prevalence of vitiligo in the world, with approximately 8.8 percent of the population affected.
The exact cause of this skin disorder is still widely unknown. However, severe stress patterns, neurohumoral factors, autoimmune factors, and the prolonged consumption of protein and copper minerals by Indians are believed to be contributing factors.
Approximately 40 percent of vitiligo patients have a family history of the condition or have experienced drug usage. The most common type of vitiligo, called “vulgaris,” is typically found on the lower limbs followed by the upper limbs.
In India, phototherapy using narrow band ultraviolet B (UVB) has shown promising results in halting the progression of vitiligo. Depigmentation therapy is also conducted over several months to treat vitiligo. Surgical procedures, such as skin grafting, blister grafting, and cellular suspension transplant, are considered in cases where other options have not been successful.
Vitiligo is classified as an autoimmune disease affecting both adults and children of all genders, although more women and young females are prone to develop the condition. Nearly 50 percent of females develop vitiligo before the age of 20, and 70-80 percent develop it during their 30s.
Patients with vitiligo often experience periods of social exclusion, leading to feelings of isolation and body image problems. To promote inclusivity and a positive approach, mental health workshops, awareness programs, and partnerships with global charities are organized in schools and workplaces to normalize vitiligo and break social stigmas.
Ongoing research is exploring various treatments, including a drug to stimulate color-producing cells. This treatment, currently being developed in India, involves implanting the drug under the skin to promote the growth of melanocytes. Another drug that helps control melanocytes is also being studied. Additionally, a gel is being developed for localized restoration of skin color in individuals with vitiligo. These cost-effective medical advancements are currently in progress in India.
By the end of this decade, treatment options are expected to expand to include the use of robotics technology in therapy and the incorporation of safe light rays for sensitive skin types (white light). Workplaces and educational institutions will continue to increase awareness and provide self-help options for all vitiligo patients.