I just discovered something very interesting about nickel and vitiligo that I want to share.
I recently had a hair mineral analysis done, my second in four months. It revealed that my body is dumping significant levels of nickel.
At first I didn’t think too much about it. But then I discovered that nickel is associated with vitiligo. Nickel has been shown to cause “vitiligo-like depigmentations” (source)
I also came across this article that said this about nickel:
Besides nutritional deficiencies, you should also look to heavy metal poisoning as a possible cause, and the source could be as close to hand as the front of your nose. Chronic skin contact with nickel has been implicated in vitiligo, and in two patients studied, the cause was put down to the metal frames of their eyeglasses, which were made of nickel. Both patients turned out to have nickel hypersensitivity, which in turn caused low production of melanin (Yonsei Med J, 1991; 32: 79-81).
Now, I have not had any allergy testing done, but I am pretty certain that I do have a nickel allergy. I absolutely cannot wear cheap earrings in my ears because I get unbearable itching-so I really don’t wear much costume jewelry. I don’t wear eyeglasses either.
However, I did discover that tap water can contain some significant levels of nickel, especially the first water to emerge from the pipes in the morning (source).
Then it dawned on me that I constantly had my hands in hot tap water when I would wash dishes (I didn’t have a dishwasher). Nickel plated pipes can leach nickel into the water when the water is hot. I find this very significant since most of us develop vitiligo on our hands first – which is a strong indicator that there is some kind of allergy to some substance since we use our hands for EVERYTHING.
Tap water can also contain nickel, according to Dr. Kunin, but for the average individual who is allergic to nickel, this should not pose a problem. However since nickel levels are higher in hot water than in cold, terribly sensitive people should keep temperatures moderate for showering and bathing, she notes, because in theory they could react to it. Running the water for five minutes to flush out impurities (the source of the nickel comes from the plumbing) may also help. (source)
If you have a lot of piercings or you wear a lot of costume jewelry, you might want to give it a rest for awhile. If you wear nickel-plated eyeglasses and you have vitiligo on your face, consider wearing contacts or swap your glasses for some others made with different material.
I’ve seen a lot of people asking if it’s safe to get a tattoo with vitiligo. Interestingly, if you have a nickel allergy, it’s likely you may also have an allergy to tattoo ink, so be careful.
Dietary nickel can also be a problem for extremely sensitive individuals. Here is an interesting excerpt from PubMed regarding nickel in the diet and it’s relation to contact dermatitis:
Individual diets may vary, leading to substantial variability in nickel intake. For example, if an individual consumed the following daily diet: breakfast—a bowl of oatmeal (0.22mg of nickel) and one banana (0.04mg); lunch—one whole grain bun (0.01mg) with a chicken breast (0.01mg), green beans (0.03mg), and a Hershey’s bar (0.01mg); dinner—a serving of broccoli (0.02mg), a baked potato (0.02mg), and a pork chop (0.005mg);snack—a half-cup of peanuts (0.22mg)12; his or her nickel intake for the day would be 0.58mg of nickel, which is well above the amount shown to cause flares.
What to Do if You Suspect You Have a Nickel Allergy
The best thing to do, of course, is to get allergy testing done to confirm whether or not you do actually have a nickel allergy.
But, if you don’t want to do testing, you can always just eliminate all nickel exposure. The only problem with this is that it is a bit inconvenient to do and you may have to stick with it long term before you see any results. So it probably better to know for sure if you have an allergy so you won’t be wasting your time and energy.
Either way, here are some things you need to consider doing to lessen/eliminate your nickel exposure:
- Invest in a shower filter
- Always wear gloves when washing dishes
- Eliminated all jewelry, or at least be sure your jewelry is nickel free.
- Remove piercings
- Reconsider getting tattoos
- Reduce/eliminate high nickel foods