Vitiligo is a condition in which milky-white patches develop on the skin.
People with vitiligo and their families are treated differently in society leading to low self-esteem and even severe depression.
Hence, it is a life changing for those who have it even if the condition is not physically disabling.
It develops because the color-producing cells in our skin, the melanocytes, die.
The cause of this still remains uncertain to scientists.
Multiple factors such as genetics, a faulty immune system attacking its own cells, and increased free radical-induced damage may be to blame.
Cigarette smoking is proven to have severe effects on almost all systems of the human body.
Along with nicotine, the smoker inhales 7000 other chemicals in the cigarette that reduce overall health and have long-term harmful effects.
Also passive smoking and can be harmful to health.
The most harmful compounds in tobacco smoke include:
- carbon monoxide
- toxic metals, such as lead, arsenic and cadmium
- free radicals.
Smoking is known to increase oxidative stress. It also reduces the stores of glutathione, a natural antioxidant in the body.
One of the important causes of cell death in vitiligo is the accumulation of free radicals such as hydrogen peroxide and other reactive oxygen species.
The cyanide in the smoke also prevents the activation of vitamin B-12 to its active form rendering it useless.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency is associated with slow re-pigmentation in vitiligo.
Hence, smoking can hinder the repigmentation process or accelerate the progression of the disease.
Vitiligo patients who smoke are recommended to reduce and eventually quit smoking.
In addition, avoiding secondhand smoke can also be helpful.
Methods that have proved effective are individual and group counseling and medications, including nicotine replacement therapy and varenicline.
Vitamin B-12 in its active forms can be supplemented.
Cysteine supplements can build up glutathione stores in the body.
Following a Mediterranean diet that incorporates fresh fruits and vegetables of different colors provides a variety of antioxidants such as carotenes, anthocyanins and flavonoids that help shut down free radicals.
Furthermore, carotenes protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Exercise and calming techniques such as meditation and yoga can help reduce the stress associated with Vitiligo and smoking cessation.