Lifestyle Regional

The anguish of living with Vitiligo 

Vitiligo is a disease that causes the loss of skin color in blotches. It occurs when Melanin pigment producing cells die or stop functioning.

The causes of vitiligo has not yet been identified. Scientist has revealed that autoimmunity plays a role in vitiligo. That is when your immune system mistakenly identifies a part of your body cells called melanocytes as foreign and starts to attack them.

Dr. Lim (past president of the American Academy of dermatology) says, vitiligo can run in families but it is not as common as we might think.

Research done shows a high prevalence of vitiligo was found in Africa and in Female patients.

Vitiligo is relatively common disease with about 1% of the world's population affected, which means over 50 million.

There are two types of Vitiligo. Segmental vitiligo and non-segmental vitiligo. With the Segmental vitiligo, it stays on one part of the body and doesn’t spread while non segmental vitiligo usually spreads on the body as time goes on.

Some major symptoms relating to Vitiligo are loss of skin color or premature hair whitening. Usually, the discoloration first shows on sun exposed areas such as hands, feet, lips, face and arms.

Although vitiligo isn’t a contagious disease, a skin condition with loss of pigment in irregular patches can be an emotional burden to people afflicted.

In Africa, afflicted individuals endure psychological, psychosocial and emotional stress from its stigma.

Social, religion and tribal factors play significant roles in stigmatization in Africa. It is believed in Africa that vitiligo is a result of the wrath of the gods upon a person, a curse, mystery, spiritual attack, child of a goddess/deity etc.

It is shocking and unbelievable that some medical personnel believe that Vitiligo is a spiritual issue.

The knowledge and education of Vitiligo in Africa is low. This is because, most parents have less or more idea about the disease.

Children with Vitiligo suffer psychosocial at school because they rejected by their fellow mates and even get treated differently by teachers.

On the other hand, Vitiligo afflicted adults suffer during job haunting. Employers think employing such individuals will make customers not patronize their company and secondly the fear of other staffs getting affected by the disease.

Superstition and religion are highly hailed in Africa, hence making life a living hell for afflicted individuals.

A particular tribe in Nigeria strongly believe that anyone with such disease has offended the gods by eating a particular food forbidden by his or her family. Another tribe also believe it is a curse.

Women affected with Vitiligo find it difficult to find love and get married. In Uganda, a married woman was rejected by her husband when she began developing vitiligo on her face.

In Ghana, many fear talking about it especially on cameras for fear of being rejected and lack of self-confidence.

In Kenya, it is assumed that Vitiligo is caused by crossing the water used to bath twins poured on the ground.

From the above, it is Crystal clear that the education on Vitiligo in Africa is low. The effective solution to these challenges is to improve quality of life awareness, enlightenment and education. Individuals living with Vitiligo should also be supported and help build their confidence.

Name: Belinda Amoako-Arthur

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