Vitiligo is a skin disorder in which white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body. This happens because the cells that make pigment in the skin are destroyed.
Vitiligo can also affect the mucous membranes (such as the tissue inside the mouth and nose) and the eye.
The cause is not known. Vitiligo may be an autoimmune disease. These diseases happen when the immune system mistakenly attacks some part of the body. In Vitiligo, the immune system may destroy the melanocytes in the skin.
Although it is neither painful nor life-threatening, vitiligo can be an emotional burden to people who are afflicted. Ignorance and inherited attitudes about other diseases like leprosy contribute to the stigmatization of people with vitiligo, particularly young women, who suffer from its effects.
Sadly, there are reported cases of people who suffer from the condition that have had to give up their dreams and aspirations in life.
Because the condition is not painful or damaging beyond the psychological effects, it has received little attention from researchers and medical professionals.
About 1% of the world’s population is suffering from this condition, making it even more difficult to attract the needed attention.
In Ghana there are over 150,000 people living with the condition. They suffer huge stigmatization and discrimination from the society. The stigmatization is such that most employers would not offer work to people living with the condition. This can greatly be attributed to lack of education on the condition.
As a result of the stigmatization, people with the condition shy away from social life such as schooling, work and such other public life.
There is therefore the need to educate people about the condition in order to reduce the stigmatization that comes with it as well as to trigger research into finding cure for the condition, hence World Vitiligo Day.