Vitiligo – A “Curse” that Comes with Social Stigma Attached

Vitiligo or Leucoderma, is a skin disorder in which melanocytes (melanin producing cells) that are responsible for skin and hair color are destroyed or stop functioning. This results in depigmentation (loss of color) of the affected skin, leading to the formation of milky-white patches on hands, neck, feet, arms etc. These patches are more evident on dark skinned individuals. The term ‘Vitiligo’ has managed to gain popularity in the global social circuit via the famous pop star, Michael Jackson, who, in order to get rid of the dark patches (Vitiligo), got his entire body depigmented that resulted in a uniform fair complexioned skin.

Surprisingly, till date; the cause of vitiligo has remained a mystery within the scientific fraternity. Researchers have come up with theories for the cause of this disorder, but their authenticity is yet to be proved. Some say it could be an autoimmune disorder (reaction of immune system against victim’s own body cells, i.e., destruction of melanocytes). Another theory states that victims might have inherited the genes responsible, from their family members, making it a hereditary disorder. A classic example to this theory is Michael Jackson’s son, who inherited the disease from his father according to newspaper reports. Finally, some individuals also reported a single event, ranging from an emotional stress to sunburn, after which they developed leucoderma.

Psychological Trauma in Victims
Even though vitiligo does not have any life threatening implications on the affected individuals, the way in which it manifests itself is enough to crush down the victim psychologically. This situation is worse in dark skinned victims, on whom the white patches are even more prominent. Thus, more chances of getting noticed in the society and more frowned brows. Therefore, family members, friends and support groups can play a major role in dealing with the sensitivity around the issue and encouraging the victim to act normal without any inhibitions.

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