Urgent need to dispel myths surrounding Vitiligo in India

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine, Social Health Community Comments Off

Stress-busting techniques and a diet rich in copper and B12 beneficial in this condition

New Delhi, 25 June 2018: About 2% to 5% of the Indian population is affected by vitiligo, a condition which has deep social stigma attached to it. This is primarily because in people affected by vitiligo, white spots or patches appear on the skin. On World Vitiligo Day, there is a need to create awareness on the fact that although it is a medical condition, vitiligo is not contagious. There is an urgent need to remove such myths and accord equal respect and help to those with this condition.

Vitiligo is a skin disease that occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in skin die or lose their function. Due to this, the normal skin color is lost, and the person develops pale, depigmented skin patches that can affect any part of the body, including the mouth, hair and eyes. It is more noticeable in people with darker skin.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr K K Aggarwal, President, Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI), said, “Vitiligo results from an autoimmune process directed against the melanocytes and is often associated with other autoimmune disorders, including autoimmune thyroid disease, pernicious anemia, systemic lupus erythematosus and Addison disease. People with this condition are looked down upon in India, thinking that any kind of contact can result in them acquiring this condition. Hundreds of those with vitiligo are subjected to bullying, social stigma, disability, and psychological trauma. What exacerbates this problem further is that the condition is progressive. Treatments are available that may improve the appearance of the skin but presently there is no cure.”

Vitiligo has six sub-types: generalized (most common and characterized by widespread macules and patches that are often symmetrically distributed); acrofacial vitiligo (involves areas surrounding body orifices and extensor surfaces); segmental; focal; mucosal; and universal.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “The diagnosis for vitiligo is based upon the clinical presence of depigmented patches of skin. Examination with a Wood lamp is useful for highlighting areas of pigment loss on light skinned patients. Treatment is based upon re-pigmentation therapies, which include topical and oral corticosteroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors, ultraviolet light (PUVA and narrowband UVB), and skin grafting techniques.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Apply sunscreen and cover your body parts whenever venturing out in the sun between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. However, the early morning sun rays can help in stimulating skin pigment cells and benefit patients.
  • While bathing, use mild soaps and gently scrub the skin. Sometimes friction can trigger the onset of new patches.
  • Avoid chemical-based products like deodorants or perfumes directly on skin. A good alternative is to use them on clothes instead.
  • Yoga and meditation can help you in overcoming the mental and emotional burden of this disease.
  • A diet rich in copper inclusive of spinach, mustard greens, and sesame is good. One can also drink water stored in copper vessels. Also ensure that your diet has enough of Vitamin B12, folic acid, and pantothenic acid.

Music can benefit those with Alzheimer’s and Anxiety

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The number of Alzheimer’s patients in India will triple by 2050

New Delhi, 6th May 2018: A study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah Health have come up with the theory that music-based treatments could be used to alleviate anxiety in patients with dementia. Music may help tap into the salience network of the brain that is still relatively functioning. The need of the hour is to create awareness on alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Music activates the brain, causing whole regions to communicate. By listening to the personal soundtrack, the visual network, the salience network, the executive network and the cerebellar and corticocerebellar network pairs all showed significantly higher functional connectivity.
Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President, Heart Care Foundation of India, said, “Alzheimer’s causes severe memory recall issues, and progressive damage to their brains impairing other cognitive functions as well. This can lead to a state of anxiety and disorientation in many people but listening to music can prove beneficial. Music can relieve stress, reduce anxiety and depression, and reduce agitation. Apart from aiding memory in those with Alzheimer’s, music can also benefit caregivers by reducing their anxiety and distress. It helps lighten the mood and provides a way to connect with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease by easing communication. Music is like an anchor, grounding the patient back in reality.”

India has an ever-growing elderly population, out of which 1.6 million are suffering from Alzheimer’s. This number is only expected to triple by 2050.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “It is important that you engage in regular mentally stimulating activities to keep those brain cells up and running. This is particularly beneficial for those who have crossed their 40s. Try doing light brain stimulating tasks like crossword puzzles, quizzes, daily reading or anything similar that interests you. For older individuals, it is advised that they engage their mental reserves through social engagement and exercise.”

Some tips from HCFI.

·       Maintain a healthy weight. Check your waistline.
·       Eat mindfully. Emphasize colorful, vitamin–packed vegetables and fruits; whole grains; fish, lean poultry, tofu, and beans and other legumes as protein sources plus healthy fats. Cut down on unnecessary calories from sweets, sodas, refined grains like white bread or white rice, unhealthy fats, fried and fast foods, and mindless snacking. Keep a close eye on portion sizes, too.
·       Exercise regularly. Aim for 2½ to 5 hours weekly of brisk walking (at 4 mph). Or try a vigorous exercise like jogging (at 6 mph) for half that time.
·       Keep an eye on important health numbers. In addition to watching your weight and waistline, keep a watch on your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar numbers.

Earlier clinical trials reported in uptodate have found that exposing patients to music for 15 to 20 minutes prior to and/or during a procedure reduces anxiety levels in samples of patients undergoing various procedures like colposcopy, cystoscopy and gastrointestinal; cesarean delivery; mastectomy; port catheter placement, day surgery, flexible cystoscopy; and hysteroscopy.
An observational trial in patients awaiting surgery found that patients’ subjective reports of decreased anxiety were consistent with heart rate variability, an objective marker of anxiety.
Music did not show a benefit during endoscopy in a trial of patients under conscious sedation.

Lack of awareness impedes the treatment of celiac disease in India

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Genetic susceptibility is a major factor in the development of this condition

New Delhi, 09th April 2018: According to statistics, celiac disease affects almost 0.7% of the world’s population. In India, about six to eight million Indians are estimated to have this disease, and its prevalence in the North Indian community is 1 in 100.There is a lack of awareness about this condition and the need of the hour is to educate people.

Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Genetics has a major role in the prevalence of this condition and therefore, children are equally susceptible to it.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “People suffering from celiac disease cannot digest a protein called gluten which is found in barley and wheat flour. Gluten triggers immune system in patients to damage small intestine villi. As a result, patients cannot absorb nutrients from food and remain malnourished which could lead to anemia weight loss and fatigue. Celiac disease patients suffer from fat malabsorption. A gluten free diet is also recommended for patients with wheat allergy dermatitis herpetiformis multiple sclerosis autoimmune disorders autism spectrum disorders ADHD and some behavioral problems. Gluten containing cereals are wheat barley rye oats and triticale. Gluten is also present as a food additive in the form of a flavoring stabilizing or thickening agent. In these conditions one should switch over to gluten free foods.”

Gluten allergy, unlike traditional allergies, cannot be pinned down as its onset is gradual with symptoms that may resemble other conditions: headaches, stomach cramps, bloating, anxiety, depression, and so on. Gluten can gradually erode the villi in the small intestine and prohibit the body from absorbing nutrients from food.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “A person with celiac disease must stay away from items like wheat, rye, semolina, durum, malt and barley. It is a good idea to check labels at the back of packed products to check for traces of gluten. Some items that may contain gluten include canned soups, condiments, salad dressings, candies, and pasta. However, all this does not mean one cannot have variety in meals. It is possible to use alternatives such as rice, sorghum, quinoa, amaranth, bajra, ragi and buckwheat.”

Some HCFI tips.


Switching to a gluten-free diet is a big change and can take some time for a person to get used to. There are many naturally gluten-free foods which are also healthy and delicious. Some of these include the following.

  • Beans, seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
  • Fresh eggs
  • Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Most dairy products

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