By: Nohemie Mawaka
A few weeks ago, I had posted an article about my skin discoloration condition that was often associated with a very strong dryness of the scalp. Whilst my skin is no longer dry (the natural path method did work!), my mother on the other hand insisted that I see a dermatologist because my skin was losing its natural coloration. To be honest, I love the field of medicine but I do avoid going to the doctor at all cost because they often feed us loads of medication; it’s almost like the good old medical care system has forgotten its ethics. Thus why I do my best to always be healthy, use natural products and I have always been confident that I have a good immune system. In reality, at a certain age or time in our lives we all need medication and the attention of a doctor in order to stay alive. Recently, with my skin progressively loosing its natural color especially on my forehead and scalp, around my noise and at the center of my neck; my parents became very concerned. That is how I ended up at my family doctor’s office that referred me to a dermatologist.
When my doctor told me that he suspects that I may have vitiligo, millions of thoughts were running through my mind when he called it an autoimmune disease (condition in which an individual’s immune system reacts against the body’s own organs or tissues). In vitiligo, melanocytes which are cells created by our bodies for pigmentation are destroyed. This leads to a progressive discoloration of the skin. The origin of vitiligo is unknown but researchers suspect that it is an inherited three genes which leads to depigmentation. For some reason, vitiligo appears to be more common in people with other associated autoimmune diseases. It often begins in the early twenties or at the least prior to the age of forty. While women tend to be more receptive to multiple illness’; contrarily vitiligo is common among both genders and all ethnicities. With darker skin individuals showing more signs of discoloration. More so, it is often found among people with pernicious anemia; a condition where there is an insufficient amount of vitamin B12 absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract), hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland) or uveitis (inflammation in one part of the eye). These are all suspected cause of vitiligo associated diseases, but not a confirmation nor certainty for the reason behind the disease.
Although there is no cure for vitiligo and no physical associated pains, for many it is emotionally and psychologically unbearable. Having a discoloration of the skin in public areas of the body such as the face, neck or harms, may become embarrassing to walk around with because it is so noticeable to others around you; particularily vitiligo affected individuals of darker skin. Luckily, there is professional mental health help available to all living in developed countries. Treatments are slowly becoming more available such as depigementation where the entire body fades and matches in color, topical psoralen photochemotherapy which involves the application of UVA light once or twice a week which is more useful among those whose diagnoses shows a correlation with sunburns, surgery of skin removal; just to name a few. I am not 100% certain if I am a carrier of vitiligo or simply that the dryness of my skin loses its pigmentation at certain times of the years (usually in the fall). But for what it’s worth, I will wait for my biopsy and see the results. Reading several articles on vitiligo and recalling individuals who I have met that are affected by the disease, makes me realize that this condition ought to be embraced rather than a stigma for public humiliation. Visit the American Vitiligo Research Foundation for more details: http://www.avrf.org
Source: Jian Cui, Li-Yu Shen and guang-chao Wang. Role of hair follicles in the repigmentation of Vitiligo. Journal of Investigative Dermotology (1991) 97, 410-416.