VITILIGO; WHAT IS IT?
Vitiligo, also called leukoderma, is triggered by the loss of pigment-producing cells in the skin. This result in the formation of white spots and patches on the skin. With some patients the condition never progresses beyond the appearance of one patch. With others, however, it spreads over the body quickly. Still others may suffer a slower form of vitiligo that continues to spread over many years. Vitiligo is neither physically painful nor contagious.
Not all cases of vitiligo may be as obvious as too alarming, for it is mostly noticeable on dark-skinned people. But there are many people afflicted to one degree or another. Statistics show that between 1 and 2 percent of world population maybe affected. Vitiligo knows no racial boundaries and affects men and women equally. It cause is still unknown.
While there is no sure cure for vitiligo, there are many ways of dealing with it. For instance, in light-skinned patients, the condition is more evident when the unaffected skin is suntanned. Hence, avoiding exposure to the sun can make the condition less noticeable. With dark-skinned people, special cosmetics can help disguises the contrasts in skin colour. Some patients have responded well to a process known as repigmentation. This treatment involves many months of medication and the use of special ultra-violet equipment. In some cases this treatment has caused normal colour to return to parts of the afflicted skin. Other patients choose depigmentation. The goal of this treatment is to even out the skin tone by destroying the remaining pigment-producing cells with the use of medication.
Vitiligo can cause emotional distress to those afflicted, especially when it spread to the face. In one recent study a woman afflicted by vitiligo explains, “two children looked at me and ran away screaming. Others are hesitant to speak with me, thinking that I may have a contagious disease or that I have been cursed”. People cannot catch vitiligo by touch or through the air.