Top 15 Myths Related to Vitiligo

Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition that causes skin depigmentation. It takes the form of skin white spots with a sharp margin and a milk-white color. Leucoderma is just another name for vitiligo: “leuco” means white and “derma” refers to the skin in Greek. Every year on the 25th of June it is celebrated globally.

Though it is not harmful, several misconceptions and social stigma surround this disease, especially in India. Some patients of vitiligo avoid going to the doctor because of a lack of knowledge and existing myths, as a result, they deprive themselves of proper treatment.

Top 15 Myths Related to Vitiligo

1. It is caused by the wrath of the gods; it’s a punishment for our sins

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If vitiligo is punishment for our sins then all of us would be carrying at least one white patch. But Vitiligo has nothing to do with God or past life, it is caused by antibodies produced by our own cells, which destroy melanocytes.

2. It is painful

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Vitiligo is a condition which does not lead to any kind of physical pain to the person suffering from it. It affects the skin colour, hair and sometimes the pupils which might cause some emotional and psychological trauma. People might suffer from depression due to their changing appearance and start feeling embarrassed while going in public places.

3. It is contagious

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It is a disorder which replaces the natural skin tone with white spots and patches. It is not contagious, that is, vitiligo cannot be spread from one person to another by direct or indirect contact. It is not transferable by touch, sharing personal items, sexual intercourse etc.

4. All white patches lead to vitiligo

Vitiligo is a skin disorder which is caused due to the loss of a pigment which is called melanin. Not all white spots or patches on the skin can be deemed as vitiligo. It is important to consult a doctor in case a white spot appears on the skin instead of self-diagnosis.

5. Patients with vitiligo are mentally retarded or have low intelligence

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It is often believed that those affected by vitiligo are in some way inferior in their physical or mental capabilities. Many people, due to lack of knowledge about an ailment believe that people with white patches are not intelligent, intellectually disabled or that their bodies are unhealthy and dysfunctional. Vitiligo is not associated with the degree of one’s intelligence.

6.Tattooing over a vitiligo patch is a good way to camouflage it

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Tattooing is actually a bad idea because a phenomenon called ‘Koebnerization’ can occur, in which the injury caused by tattoo needles stimulates the disease, and encourages it to spread. Also, over a period of time tattoos display something called ‘Tyndall effect’ due to sinking of pigments into the lower layers of the skin.

7.It is hereditary

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This is one myth, which has some basis of truth. Different studies report inheritance to be anything from 15/20 – 30/40 per cent. However, it can appear as an isolated case—it is not necessary to have an affected relative. Nor is it necessary that the affected person’s progeny will definitely have the disease.

8. It is untreatable or 100% curable

Treatment is no doubt difficult and slow and not all patients respond alike; however, it is more important to treat the stigma than the disease as the mental impact is far more than the effect on physical well-being.

9. It is aggravated by sour foods

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There is actually no relationship of vitiligo with food. It is useless to deprive the patients of curd, lemon, pickles and tomatoes in the hope of decreasing the severity of the disease. There is also one particularly prevalent myth that drinking milk shortly after eating fish brings on the disease.

10. It is related to other skin conditions

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Vitiligo is not related to other skin disorders such as albinism, skin cancer or leprosy. There are clear distinctions between each of these disorders, none of them being related to vitiligo. Individuals with albinism are born with little or no melanin, whereas vitiligo onset occurs when melanocytes are damaged.

11. There are several laboratory tests to detect Vitiligo

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There is no such laboratory test such as blood and another test. Your doctor can examine you with the instrument or tool known as Wood’s lamp. If you are not feeling well then you must visit your primary care doctor then he examines you and tells you about the condition you have.

12. It is life-threatening

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Vitiligo is not life threatening but the mental trauma given by society can lead one to the state of depression.

13. People with vitiligo are born with patchy uneven skin because they have mixed-race parents

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 Vitiligo is not related to the ethnicity of the parents and most people with it have even skin pigmentation at birth. Vitiligo is a progressive medical condition that generally emerges as discolored patches in a young person before the age of 20, though it can occur in older age too.

14. Only dark-skinned people get vitiligo

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Vitiligo affects people of all races equally; however, it may be more noticeable in people with dark skin.

15. It only affects skin that you can see, such as on faces and hands

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White or light patches caused by vitiligo tend to occur more commonly in sun-exposed areas, such as hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. However, these patches can also occur in the armpits, groins, eyes, navel, genitals and rectal areas.

Knowledge of vitiligo in adults is negligible, yet their attitude towards the disease is generally acceptable. Educating the public about vitiligo could lead to increased self-confidence, better social integration, and psychological well being for vitiligo patients and it can help them live a humble life.

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