Vitiligo is a skin condition where a person gets patches of white skin with sharp margins. This happens because cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. It can affect any part of the body including the mouth, hair and eyes. It can affect people of all skin types, but it is more noticeable in people with darker skin. This is not a fatal or contagious disease, but it comes with a few complications. Moreover, because of the stigma attached to it, it can have an adverse psychological impact on patients. Today, on the occasion of World Vitiligo Day, we need to take a pledge to dispel the myths associated with this disease. This day aims to increase global awareness about vitiligo, which occurs in about 1-2 per cent of the global population.
The first World Vitiligo Day was observed on June 25, 2011. The date was chosen in memory of artist Michael Jackson, who suffered from vitiligo. June 25 is also his death anniversary. Since then, countries and organisations across the world observe this day with events and programmes designed to increase awareness about this condition.
On World Vitiligo Day today, let us dispel a few misconceptions associated with this condition.
Fact: Many people still believe that drinking milk can lead to vitiligo. If someone in the family has this condition, other members try to avoid including milk in their diet. This is a myth. Diet will not induce this skin condition.
Myth: Vitiligo is highly contagious
Fact: Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder and is not at all contagious. This is one myth that can contributed significantly to the stigma attached to this condition. People keep away from vitiligo patients and try to avoid all kinds of physical contact, be it a simple handshake or a hug. Because of this many vitiligo patients suffer from psychological distress.
Myth: It is the result of sun damage
Fact: If you have this skin condition, you may need to avoid going out in the sun because of the risk of sunburn. The absence of melanin puts you at risk of sun damage. But vitiligo is not caused by exposure to the sun. You will not get this condition if you are an outdoor person.
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Myth: This condition goes away on its own
Fact: This is an autoimmune disease and it needs medical treatment. The treatment for this condition is long and complicated. If left untreated, it can spread gradually to different parts of the body. Unfortunately, the many misconceptions and stigma attached to the disease makes people think twice before seeking treatment for their condition.
Myth: There is no cure for this skin condition
Fact: Well, proper treatment can cure this condition but there is always the chance of recurrence. Photo therapy helps in re-pigmentation. But results vary from patient to patient and it is a very long and complicated procedure. Because of this, most people do not seek treatment and instead live with the condition despite the stigma attached to it.