Jinja: Vitiligo, an autoimmune skin condition causing loss of skin color, has become a significant psycho-social issue, particularly among the youth. Characterized by white patches on the skin, vitiligo affects people of all races, but it is more pronounced in individuals with darker skin tones. Despite not being contagious, vitiligo can take an emotional toll on those who experience it.
Dr. Kasadha Nicholas, a dermatologist at Nicmark Dermatology, explains that vitiligo occurs when the body’s immunity cells start attacking melanocytes, responsible for producing melanin—the pigment that gives color to the skin. As the body stops producing melanin, white discoloration appears, leading to vitiligo.
The symptoms of vitiligo can vary but often include spots and patches of lighter skin, patches that burn easily, and hair turning white or grey. 26-year-old Kawooya Aloysius, who has lived with vitiligo for 19 years, shares his challenges, including facing discrimination in both the community and job market. Despite being a qualified teacher, he has faced rejection due to his skin condition.
Psychologically, vitiligo can lead to severe depression, making patients less effective in their daily lives. Socially, individuals with vitiligo may withdraw from social interactions, blaming themselves or others for their condition. This highlights the need for holistic support and understanding from medical professionals and communities alike.
Dr. Nicholas warns that vitiligo can increase the risk of skin cancers and other skin-related conditions due to the absence of melanin, which protects the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. This makes sun protection crucial for individuals with vitiligo.
Many myths surround vitiligo, with some attributing it to witchcraft or spiritual forces. Dr. Nicholas emphasizes the importance of accurate medical knowledge to combat these misconceptions and encourage proper treatment.
Treating vitiligo involves various options, including phototherapy, where patients are exposed to light to reactivate melanocytes. Additionally, drugs that regulate immunity, such as steroids or immunity regulators, can help calm down immunity cells. Patients may also receive supplements like copper, zinc, and vitamin D3 to stimulate melanocyte activity.
The cost of vitiligo treatment depends on factors like the severity of the condition, the patient’s age, medical history, and the chosen treatment option. However, medical professionals strive to make treatment as affordable as possible, recognizing the impact of vitiligo on mental health.
As research and treatments continue to progress, it is crucial to promote awareness, understanding, and empathy towards those living with vitiligo. By breaking down myths, offering support, and providing accessible treatments, we can foster a more inclusive and compassionate society for individuals with vitiligo.