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Vitiligo in the Limelight

For many years vitiligo was a disease that people in the US knew very little about. Although the condition was more common than most people thought, there was not widespread awareness of it. In countries like India and Pakistan, public awareness followed a different trend. The condition held a long tradition of stigma leading to widespread misperceptions and discrimination. As the general public often thought vitiligo might be contagious, patients felt ostracized and did their utmost to hide the conditions.

Today, electronic media is contributing to a more uniform and informed view of vitiligo across the globe. As society has become more accepting of various skin tones, people with vitiligo are being increasingly celebrated. Today there are many models, actors and public figures who have vitiligo and who wear the condition with pride. Thanks to numerous articles published over the past few years, more people are getting their vitiligo facts straight.

An abundance of blogs and forums on social media cover the topic from a variety of perspectives. The coverage shows an international audience the breadth and scope of efforts made to combat and adjust to the disease. Bringing awareness is important, as it helps to de-stigmatize vitiligo. Accessible dialogue provides more accurate information to the general public. Bringing awareness to the causes, symptoms, and treatments of vitiligo is a good way to lift the veil. Increased information simply promotes acceptance.

While blogs and newspaper articles are important to the general public, scientific publications put vitiligo in the focus of the medical and scientific community. Even though these publications target scientists, they hold a lot of information that easily opens up to the casual reader. Let’s take Dr. Caroline Le Poole’s and Dr. Shikar Mehrotra’s 2017 article in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology as an example. The introduction is a great read also for non-scientists as it starts by outlining basic facts about vitiligo. Did you, for instance, know that the Indian leader Nehru declared vitiligo as one of the three most important health issues, that approximately 0.5% of the world’s population has the condition, and that the onset of the disease tends to spike at the ages of 15 and 45? Scientific papers give answers to questions, that you may never have thought of asking.

Le Poole’s and Mehrotra’s article goes on to explain that vitiligo actually is caused by an immune malfunction. The root cause of vitiligo, as the article describes it, is when the body mistakenly identifies a threat and sends T cells to kill pigment cells. This causes discoloration of the skin resulting in white lesions typical for the disease. These white patches can appear on the hands, face, legs, torso and the intimate parts of the body. Progressive lesions tend to cause great stress to vitiligo patients, many of whom feel embarrassed about their condition and may choose to cover their lesions with clothes and makeup. Patients may also struggle to form intimate relationships as they fear rejection because of their lesions.

Although vitiligo is a disease that can greatly impact the patients’ quality of life, strides are being made to alleviate the symptoms. Scientists like Dr. Le Poole and Dr. Mehrotra are both finding solutions as well as documenting the progress in fighting the disease. This results in both new treatments and in raising awareness about the condition. The increasing level of dialogue both in electronic media and medical journals provide vitiligo patients with the confidence that they are not alone. There is an entire community of researchers, scientists, and medical professionals working tirelessly to find new effective ways of treating vitiligo.

Disclaimer: The information on this blog is intended for orientation purposes only. For medical treatment options please consult your dermatologist.

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