Vitiligo is a condition, whereby the skin loses its pigment-producing cells, melanocytes. This can result in discoloured patches developing in different areas of the body, including the skin, hair and mucous membranes.
People suffering from the disorder often find it discomforting, which is the main reason medical experts have urged that such patients should not be discriminated against. Rather, they need compassion to enable them to properly to cope with the ailment.
One of the major ways to prevent the sickness, according to medical experts, is by eating a balanced diet that comprises diverse food nutrients, lives a healthy and active life, as well as going for regular medical checks. There is also a need to avoid stress and unnecessary exposure to unknown chemicals to avoid compromising health.
Dr. Modupe Akinyinka, a Senior Lecturer and Consultant, Public Health Physician at the Department of Community Health and Primary Health Care, Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), explained that vitiligo causes the affected skin patches to become lighter or white. It is, however, not quite clear exactly what causes these pigment cells to fail or die.
She said: “The risk factors for vitiligo include a disorder of the immune system, autoimmune condition, family history, heredity and trigger event, such as stress, severe sunburn or skin trauma arising from contact with a chemical.
“The ailment affects people of any age or gender, and there is no way to expressly prevent vitiligo. Although there is no cure for it, certain treatment can stop the condition from worsening and help to prevent complications. Vitiligo is not caused by an infection and you cannot contract it from someone who has it.”
She explained that people suffering from vitiligo should be referred to a dermatologist. The treatment will likely include protection from sunburns with sunscreen, vitamin D, skin camouflage, topical steroids, topical tacrolimus, phototherapy, skin graft and depigmentation.
In her view, the government should support the prevention of vitiligo by investing in the healthcare system to enable diagnosis and possible treatment of cases.
Founder/Chief Executive Officer of Vitiligo Support Foundation, Ogo Maduewesi, said the foundation gives support to people living with the ailment by providing information on how to live good and positive lives.
She said: “We tell them that despite their condition, they should try to live a positive life. They should not be too anxious about the ailment. Rather, they should endeavour to live a normal life and try as much as possible to have a steady source of income and get married. They should also eat more fruits, plenty of leafy vegetables and balanced diets to boost their immunity.
“We urge them to find out what works for their skin and make it better, as well as adhere to their doctor’s advice, rather than treating the condition on their own. This is because no matter how one treats vitiligo, it will be there for years, as it does not go away easily.”
Maduewesi noted that 90 per cent of people living with vitiligo are from age zero to 40 and that they should not bother to look for easy treatment, as the condition will live with them for at least 20 years.
“Our aim is to create public awareness, but we do not have sponsors. I was at the National Assembly some years back, advocating that the government should pass a bill that would create an agency for coordinating the ailment. When there is an agency, there will be a budget for programmes and information dissemination, which will help to create more awareness and reduce the number of people coming down with the condition.”