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Myths About Vitiligo: Know the Unknown

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Myths About Vitiligo: Know the Unknown

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Vitiligo is a persistent skin condition, which has a lot of misconceptions associated with its development among the public. Read to know more about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. V. Srikanth Reddy

Published At July 18, 2023
Reviewed AtJuly 20, 2023

Introduction:

Myths and misconceptions always exist in association with certain diseases, and those myths sometimes influence the patient's treatment choices, which can directly impact the disease's progression and prognosis. Advancements in technology and science could not eliminate the room for myths among the global population. Leucoderma (Vitiligo) is one such ailment, with numerous myths revolving around its development. Myths often lead the patient to the wrong treatment options without scientific evidence. Hence, it is crucial to understand the myths and facts associated with the disease condition.

What Is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is an immune-mediated dermatological condition that persists for an extended period. In vitiligo patients, certain areas of the skin lose the characteristic skin color and appear paper white. Routinely it is encountered as a bilateral lesion involving either side of the body. However, a rare subtype of vitiligo called the segmental subtype, does exist where the patches are restricted within one side or segment of the body. Though it can develop anywhere in the skin, it is widely reported over the exposed areas of the body, like the face, hand, and neck.

Vitiligo patches are more sensitive to sunlight and more likely to get sunburns. Vitiligo patches can develop in any age group. However, many vitiligo patients reported having evident patches since their teenage years. Facial patches create esthetic concerns in the patient by hampering the appearance and can be equally distressing and disappointing. It can directly impact the individual's quality of life and emotional well-being.

What Leads to the Development of Vitiligo?

The altered immune response is believed to be the reason for the development of vitiligo. Immune cells are structured to fight against disease-causing agents, but at times, they may misinterpret their cells as foreign bodies and manifest an immune response against those cells. In vitiligo, the immune cells wrongly put up a fight against the melanocytes in the skin cells. These melanocytes release body pigment called melanin, which gives the natural skin color. Certain studies have concluded the influence of heredity over the development of vitiligo. Having a family history of vitiligo raises the chances of developing the condition.

What Are the Different Types of Vitiligo?

Two distinct forms of vitiligo are routinely reported:

  • Segmental Vitiligo: In segmental forms of vitiligo, the skin patches are encountered in a more or less unilateral fashion, where only one-half of the body gets affected by vitiligo. The vitiligo patches will be localized to a specific area of the body.

  • Non-segmental Vitiligo: It is a more generalized form of vitiligo, where the patches are manifested bilaterally.

What Are the Myths Associated With Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is bounded by many myths that restrict patients from seeking the proper treatment. Some of the widely spread myths concerning vitiligo include the following:

  • Many people believe that vitiligo develops due to God's curse, and those people with vitiligo are considered a bad fortune. Certain religions even reject such patients from the faith and stigmatize the individual. It creates mental trauma, not only for the individual but for the entire family.

  • Instead of seeking medical care for the condition, many people practice offerings to God to get rid of the disease. Thus, leaving the condition untreated leads to further extension and progression of the skin patches.

  • Many still believe vitiligo can be easily transmitted by touch or contact from a known patient to a healthy person. Vitiligo is not infectious; hence, it is impossible to acquire it randomly from a vitiligo patient. It is passed through genes and is more intrinsic (internal) in development.

  • Another misleading myth regarding vitiligo is that only dark-skinned individuals develop vitiligo patches. There is no scientific evidence supporting this. Vitiligo is more evident in dark-skinned individuals and often goes poorly detected in white skin toned individuals. However, that does not make dark-skinned individuals prone to develop vitiligo patches.

  • Many people believe that vitiligo tends to develop in the advanced age group, but reports suggest that more than half of vitiligo patients develop skin patches within the teenage period.

  • Many religious proponents advise that vitiligo suddenly disappears once the person gets freed of all the sins. This creates unwanted anxiety in the patients and forces them to change their treatment frequently. Vitiligo, a persisting skin condition, takes time to manifest appreciable improvements in the skin patches. Strict adherence to the medicine for a more extended period is needed to get favorable results.

  • People are unaware of the correlation between vitiligo and mental health. People with vitiligo are exposed to social stigmatization and isolation, which hampers their mental health considerably. It is proven that vitiligo patients are more likely to develop anxiety and depression.

What Are the Treatment Interventions Available for Vitiligo?

Like any other disease condition, vitiligo also requires prompt medical attention to gear down the disease's progression and enhance the restoration of the normal skin tone. However, no curative therapy is available to clear off the patches completely. Masking creams are available in the market that aids in camouflaging small vitiligo patches. Steroid creams are also advised to trigger the repigmentation of vitiligo patches.

Phototherapy is often preferred as a last resort for vitiligo, where specific light rays are employed to tackle the white patches. Vitiligo may at times, precipitate complications by affecting visual and auditory functions. In such cases, appropriate treatment measures should be initiated to maintain the parts of the ears and eyes. Vitiligo patches have collapsed melanin pigment, making the area susceptible to powerful sun rays; hence, sunblocks are strictly advised to check for unexpected sunburns. Vitiligo is also managed surgically sometime.

Conclusion:

Vitiligo is a typical dermatological condition where the person encounters abnormally white patches over the skin surface. Myths about vitiligo often confuse the public and restrict the person from getting prompt therapy. Patients with vitiligo often go through severe mental trauma, and these myths further deteriorate their mental health and well-being. As the patches occasionally develop in the exposed regions, it significantly interferes with the person's social life and forces them to stay indoors. Understanding and distinguishing the facts and myths are of prime importance in properly managing vitiligo. Effective treatment strategies are available to tackle the condition, enabling the person to lead a peaceful and social life.

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Dr. V. Srikanth Reddy
Dr. V. Srikanth Reddy

Dermatology

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