Some of the #terminology used in connection with #vitiligo can be a bit baffling at first for those of us who aren’t medically trained, so I have put together an alphabetical glossary of some of the most frequently used terms. I hope you find it helpful as you trawl the internet in search of answers :)
AETIOLOGY (alternative spelling: ETIOLOGY) - the study of the causes of a disease.
ANTIOXIDANT - an enzyme or other organic substance, as vitamin E or beta carotene, capable of counteracting the damaging effects of oxidation in animal tissues.
AUTO-IMMUNITY - a misdirected immune response that results in the production of antibodies that mistakenly attack the tissues of your own body. (Vitiligo is generally believed to be an auto-immune disease in which the body’s own defence system attacks its own pigment–producing cells.)
CATALASE - an enzyme that breaks down hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water.
CUTANEOUS – relating to the skin.
EPIDERMIS – the outer layer of the skin.
FREE RADICAL - free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons. In their quest to find another electron, they are very reactive and cause damage to surrounding molecules.
HYDROGEN PEROXIDE – a combination of hydrogen and oxygen. Its chemical description is H2O2. In high concentrations it can be unstable and toxic. In lower concentrations it can serve as a disinfectant and antiseptic. Its use on wounds is no longer recommended as it can damage live skin. Organisms naturally produce hydrogen peroxide as a by-product of oxidative metabolism. Hydrogen peroxide has been shown to play a role in the immune system and research shows that vitiligo sufferers typically have higher levels of it on their skin than people without vitiligo.
HYPERPIGMENTATION - the darkening of an area of skin or nails caused by increased melanin.
HYPOPIGMENTATION - the loss of skin colour due to melanin depletion.
HYPERTHYROIDISM – (often referred to as an overactive thyroid gland) is a condition in which your thyroid produces too much thyroxine, the hormone that helps regulate the adrenal system, plays a role in energy, normal growth and development, as well as the ability to maintain a healthy weight, and in mood stability.
HYPOTHYROIDISM - (often referred to as an underactive thyroid gland) is a condition in which your thyroid produces too little thyroxine, the hormone that helps regulate the adrenal system, plays a role in energy, normal growth and development, as well as the ability to maintain a healthy weight, and in mood stability.
LESION – an abnormal change involving any tissue or organ – in the case of vitiligo, it is skin - due to disease or injury.
LEUCODERMA (alternative spelling: LEUKODERMA) - localised loss of pigmentation in the skin. This can be due to a variety of causes, not purely vitiligo.
MACULE - a patch of skin that is altered in colour but usually not raised and that is a characteristic feature of various diseases (including vitiligo).
MELANIN - the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their colour. Dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin than light-skinned people have. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes. It provides some protection again skin damage from the sun, and the melanocytes increase their production of melanin in response to sun exposure. Freckles, which occur in people of all races, are small, concentrated areas of increased melanin production.
MELANOCYTE - Melanocytes are cells located in the epidermis that are responsible for producing melanin, the brown pigment that gives skin its colour and helps screen against the harmful effects of UV light.
NON-SEGMENTAL VITILIGO – the most common type of vitiligo, in which white patches develop in a broadly symmetrical pattern. New patches also appear over time and can be generalised over large portions of the body or localised to a particular area.
OXIDATIVE STRESS - an imbalance between the production of free radicals (see definition above) and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralisation by antioxidants.
PIGMENT - a substance that gives colour to tissue – in the case of the human body, pigments are responsible for the colours of skin, eyes, and hair.
PSEUDOCATALASE – (also called Pcat for short) is a vitiligo treatment cream that is applied twice a day in order to reduce epidermal hydrogen peroxide in vitiliginous skin. Pseudocatalase is usually used in combination with narrow band UVB light therapy.
SEGMENTAL VITILIGO - differs in appearance, aetiology and treatment from non-segmental vitiligo. It tends to affect one particular section of skin (or possibly several) and is unilateral instead of symmetrical in its distribution.
THYROID - the thyroid gland is an endocrine gland in your neck. It makes two hormones that are secreted into the blood: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are necessary for all the cells in your body to work normally. Thyroid disorders are very common and tend mainly to occur in women, although anybody - men, teenagers, children and babies, too - can be affected. About one in twenty people has some kind of thyroid disorder, which may be temporary or permanent.
TOPICAL - A topical medication is a medication (usually a cream, foam, gel or ointment) that is applied to body surfaces such as the skin to treat ailments.
UVA - UVA is a long wavelength (320-400nm) of ultraviolet light that penetrates both the epidermis and dermis (i.e. both the upper and lower levels of the skin). It causes skin tanning, but also the unwanted concerns of brown spot formation premature wrinkling and risk of skin cancer. Most commercial tanning beds emit UVA light.
UVB - UVB is a short wavelength (290-320nm) of ultraviolet light that affects primarily the epidermis and does not penetrate as deeply as UVA but can cause sunburn and also carries the risk of skin cancer. (NB-UVB or Narrow Band UVB is ultraviolet light in a narrow band 311nm to 313 nm and is now the preferred form of light therapy as it is thought to be more effective, faster acting, and may be safer than other UV light treatments.)
WOOD’S LAMP (also known as black light or ultraviolet light) – this lamp can be used to identify vitiliginous lesions more clearly than in normal lighting conditions. Skin with vitiligo, when exposed to a black light, will glow yellow, green or blue, in contrast to healthy skin which will have no reaction.
The famous quote from Hippocrates, the “father of modern medicine”, advocating eating your way to good health has become my mantra (my very own Hippocratic Oath, if you like) ever since I made a permanent and virtually total recovery after 50 years of widespread #vitiligo by using a #nutritionalapproach alone.
It seems to me that eating your way to good health is the most self-evident and common-sense approach to wellbeing imaginable. And yet, it is a far cry from the conventional 21st century health care that most of us in the western world receive.
I certainly don’t deny that there are some wonderful, life-saving drugs and surgical procedures available today and I wouldn’t for one moment advocate a return to the so-called Dark Ages. But how is it that we have strayed so far from Hippocrates’ principle of good nutrition as the basis of good health that the first thing most of us do when we have any ailment is reach for the pill bottle to deaden the symptom instead of giving our body the fuel it requires to heal itself?
Not only do we seem to have lost touch with the basics of natural healing through good nutrition, but we have also allowed an army of faceless scientists (popularly referred to as “they” and hyped to the status of gods by a gullible press) to confuse the heck out of us with their contradictory dietary advice:
· “margarine is better for your arteries and your waistline than butter”… no it’s not because it’s full of hydrogenated oils;
· “drink red wine – it’s good for you because of the antioxidants…don’t drink any wine at all – it’s bad for you because of the alcohol… drink in moderation… “etc., etc.;
· “saturated fats will give you heart disease”… well, actually, we now know this isn’t true – it’s trans fats that are bad for us;
· “don’t eat butter, eggs, cheese and red meat – they’re bad for your cholesterol levels.. also not true for the same reason as above;
· “eat 5 servings a day of fruit and veg” … are you kidding me? That figure was plucked out of thin air - it’s not even half of what our body requires on a daily basis.
And if that weren’t enough to leave us boggling, what about the cynical advertising thrown at us by the food producers?
· “buy our low-fat diet foods” (never mind that they are loaded with sugar and largely responsible for producing a generation of obese yo-yo dieters);
· “drink our zero-sugar drinks” (don’t worry about their carbonated, toxic flavourings and chemical sweeteners );
· “drink our pasteurised milk – it’s safer than unpasteurised” (yes – if you don’t mind the fact that there is precious little calcium or other nutrients left in it).
Our grandparents instinctively knew that food should be wholesome and unadulterated. So at what point in the last few decades did we collectively lose touch with reality and centuries of common sense?
And this brings me to perhaps the most insidiously misleading advice of all – insidious because it sounds so plausible: “there is no need for nutritional supplementation if you eat a healthy, balanced diet.” Sounds like good advice, doesn’t it? Well, it would be if such a thing were even possible for the average person in 2014. The alarming truth is that we would need to eat our way through barn-loads of fresh produce on a daily basis if we wanted to get the same nutritional value from our food as our grandparents did. This – combined with a poor digestive system - might explain why 50 years of eating a “healthy, balanced diet” left me 80% de-pigmented and suffering from chronic fatigue.
Even if you have the most efficient digestive system on earth, your chances of maintaining healthy levels of vitamins and minerals in your body has greatly reduced over recent decades. Intensive farming methods, the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides and GM crop production have resulted in serious depletion of our soil. The fruit and veg that most of us eat today actually contains 60-80% fewer vitamins than 30 years ago! And that’s quite aside from the further nutrient loss that occurs as a result of the transportation, storage, preservation and processing of our food.
I listened to a radio broadcast last night about wholefood supplements which stopped short of echoing the “healthy, balanced diet” argument but it did put forward the view that we should get the bulk of our nutrition from our food and use supplements to do what their name suggest (i.e. supplement our food intake). If we were talking about getting all our food from genuinely organic, local sources I’d be the first to agree. However, for all the reasons I have given above, I am fast coming to the conclusion that what we may actually need to do now is to turn supplementation on its head - i.e. take very high quality, nutrient-dense green wholefood “supplements” (like the one that helped me to re-pigment my vitiligo) and supplement this with the so-called “real” food we put on our plate: in other words “let food be thy medicine and let supplements be thy food!”
The past week here in the UK has seen the first of the spring weather. The lambs in the fields where I live are frolicking like playful children, the daffodils are in full bloom and I have already – in mid-March - been sitting out in the warm sunshine without a jacket and with my sleeves rolled up, catching some rays!
I can’t wait for the long days of summer to arrive and for the carefree pleasures of basking in the sun and seeing my skin turn freckled and toasty bronze. This is what motivates me to write my vitiligo blog. I want to pass on my message to others with vitiligo that they should not simply “go home and live with it” as most doctors advise us to do. Their well-meaning advice about staying in the shade and covering up (which I did for the best part of 50 years) is based on an outdated and false assumption that de-pigmented skin is at greater risk of developing a melanoma. Scientists now know that this is the opposite of the truth. Research indicates that vitiligo sufferers are 3 times less likely to develop #SkinCancer than those with normal skin.
Of course, it is true that de-pigmented skin is generally more prone to sunburn but moderate sun exposure is not only a welcome tonic after the long, dismal winter months but it is also a valuable source of vitamin D and a crucial ingredient in most #NaturalVitiligoTreatments. It was one half of the equation in my own successful re-pigmentation (the other half being the correction of long-term nutritional deficiencies). So my advice to anyone suffering with vitiligo and dreading the summer – as I used to do – is to rejoice in the sunshine, be careful not to stay out too long in it but recognise its power to stimulate new pigment. For the nutritional part of my treatment, see my story and take heart in the fact that, if I could re-pigment after almost half a century, then you can too… roll on summer!
This information is good news for everyone, in fact, who loves butter or ghee, but especially for those of us who have any sort of chronic condition caused by poor digestion. I also think that this information will gladden the heart of all good food lovers everywhere who, like me, have always known that pure butter is bound to be a healthier alternative than all those processed, low-fat, margarine-style spreads out there on the supermarket shelves.
A new health show for the Discovery Channel is hoping to raise awareness of a wide variety of medical conditions in order for viewers to gain a clearer understanding of what it’s like to live with these conditions. The show will explore the symptoms associated with various medical conditions and how best to treat/manage them.
The programme makers are keen to speak to anyone with vitiligo. They stress that there’s absolutely no obligation for anyone who gets in touch to take part – they would just like to have an informal, friendly chat with anyone who’d like to tell their story. Read their advert for participants below...
New Medical Television Programme
Looking for People with Vitiligo
Optomen Television, the BAFTA award-winning producers of Mary Portas: Queen of Shops, Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home and Heston Blumenthal’s Feast is producing a brand new TV medical series for the Discovery Network and we need your help.
In this series, we’ll be exploring a variety of health conditions in the hope that we can raise awareness on them. We’re looking for people with Vitiligo to take part in the programme to discuss their condition and to explain to others what it is like to live with it on a daily basis. By doing this, we’re hoping to raise general awareness on the condition, its symptoms and the types of treatment/care that is currently available.
We’ll also be working with a number of specialists throughout this series and, for those who take part in the programme, we can offer a free (off-screen) consultation with one of them. So perhaps you’d like a second opinion or advice on the types of treatments/care that is available to you?
For a no obligation, friendly and confidential chat with one of the team email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 227 5993 leaving your name, age and telephone number
(ALL APPLICANTS MUST BE 18 OR OVER)
Please Note: We will use and store the personal details contained in your email and any further response in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998, for the purposes of producing the Programme.
I was born an Earthling.
Just like all the other smooth-skinned, one-tone beings on the planet.
But, before long, I started to see grotesquely spotted aliens on the starboard bow – on every bow, as a matter of fact.
Humanoids – but not as we know ‘em, Capt’n.
They were the stuff of sci-fi nightmares.
They terrified me…
… until I realised they were my reflection…
… at which point I was more terrified than before.
I was being pursued…
… by a Terminator- intent on destroying my future self.
It was Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with a twist.
My body, being stolen from me, patch by patch, until I was a fully paid-up inhabitant of planet Vitiligo.
My recognisable life-form, disintegrating before my eyes.
Shattering into an infinite number of colours.
Sucked relentlessly through hypo- pigmented space into a black hole of ever-expanding, blinding whiteness.
I had become other - one of them.
Turned to the Dark Side – or, should I say, the White Side.
Like all self-respecting Body Snatchees, I hid my monstrous self behind a benign disguise.
I became an intrepid cosmeto-naut, covering my alien skin and prepared to wait it out for the duration.
Resistance is useless.
After all, in space no one can hear you scream.
A lifetime spent in Dr Who’s waiting room…
… bigger on the inside than on the outside
(owing to the massive number of double-blind tested drugs stuffed into it by the Galactic Funded Research Empire).
Then, Infinite Improbability presented me with the answer to life, the universe and everything .
It was not forty-two. It was, in fact, the Blue Planet Cure…
… the health-giving goodness of the leafy green earth and the healing rays of our sun.
No longer lost in space,
I had entered a transporter room where abnormal matter is converted into a cloud of shimmering pigment particles and beamed back home to smooth-skinned, one-tone humanity,
amid tele-transports of delight.
… for beaming me up!
My name is Caroline.