Millennium Post

'Vitiligo a white patch on skin and a scar on mind'

New Delhi: Several misconceptions prevail about vitiligo, a skin condition in which skin loses pigmentation and develops white patches. However, vitiligo does not have any harmful effect on a person and is non-contagious in nature yet it creates a social stigma. Latest treatment options including new medicines and surgical procedures have made vitiligo a more treatable condition.

However, the precise cause of vitiligo is not well-understood, though it seems to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some people have reported a single event, such as sunburn or emotional distress, to worsen the condition. Heredity may be a factor because there's an increased incidence of vitiligo in some families. For treating vitiligo, there are many topical, various surgical, laser and other alternative therapies available. "Nearly 300-400 cases of vitiligo are reported every month in the private and the governmental hospitals of Delhi. Moreover to correct the severe complication, 40-50 surgeries for vitiligo are carried out every year in Maulana Azad Medical College ( MAMC)," said Dr Rashmi Sarkar, Professor, MAMC.

It needs awareness among people to change their attitude towards the disease and obliterate the social stigma associated with it, said noted dermatologist, Dr Sarkar. "In India, about 8.8 percent of the population is affected by vitiligo. Meanwhile, the social stigma attached with the disease, mostly in South Asia, is largely due to white patches prominently standing out on darker skin complexions," Dr Sarkar said. The disease not only has a huge psycho-social stigma attached with but it also has many myths associated, she added.

Dr Sarkar said that about 30 percent of affected individuals may report a positive family history (i.e. aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent). "The risk for children of affected individuals to develop vitiligo themselves is thought to be about 5 percent. Though the condition is not usually physically painful, the psychological and social effects are well-documented. It can be especially devastating to children and those with darker skin," Dr Sarkar stated. She focused on firstly getting the diagnosis right which is very common in our country done by the quacks wrongly, only the diagnosis of a qualified dermatologist is to be believed and most importantly the family should be very supportive.

"People need not look down upon those suffering from vitiligo as it causes no harm; secondly, it is non-contagious and has no relation to leprosy. Furthermore, clothing, footwear and modern living habits must be watched as they might not cause vitiligo but precipitate it. Besides this, as soon as a person figures out de-pigmentation of the skin, he/she must be given immediate treatment rather than being ostracised by the people, shared Dr Somesh Gupta, Assistant Professor, AIIMS.

"Vitiligo is a white patch on the skin and a scar on the mind. Depression, sleep disturbances, suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts, difficulties in relationships, and avoidance of social situations have been reported in individuals afflicted," Dr Somesh Gupta added.

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