Trustee, The Vitiligo Society
Photo: Adam Jones
Vitiligo is an incurable skin condition that affects 1–2% of the world’s population and can psychologically impact a person’s life.
According to the British Skin Foundation, 60% of people in the UK currently have a skin condition, and 70% of British people with a skin condition or scar say it affects their confidence.
What is vitiligo?
Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition where white patches form on the skin due to a loss of pigment. This happens when melanocytes, the skin cells that make pigment, are attacked and destroyed.
The highly visible condition can affect both males and females of any skin colour, however, it is more noticeable on those with darker skin. Most patients will develop the condition by the time they are 30 years old.
Treatment options for vitiligo
There is no known cure for vitiligo, however, there are treatments that may help restore skin colour or slow down the development of patches. Once diagnosed, the first course of treatment often suggested by a GP/Dermatologist is topical steroids. Other types of treatment include phototherapy (treatment with light), skin grafts and depigmentation.
Firsthand experience with vitiligo
I developed vitiligo when I was three years old. It started as a small spot on the back of my hand, which spread significantly over two years, covering 70% of my body. Being of mixed-race heritage meant the white patches were a stark contrast against what was, once, my natural skin colour.
There is no known cure for vitiligo, however, there are treatments that may help restore skin colour or slow down the development of patches.
I lacked confidence and self-esteem and tried to disguise my skin with camouflage makeup and fake tan. I loved sports but felt anxious wearing a PE skirt, and summer felt like the worst time because I couldn’t dress for the warm weather.
My anxiety and lack of confidence as a result of having the condition lasted throughout my teens and 20s. It was only at the age of 30, when I had phototherapy treatment for 13 months, that I was able to start accepting my skin and appreciating that I was different.
How patients can improve their outlook with vitiligo
Community is essential to feeling accepted and knowing that you aren’t alone on your vitiligo journey. When I started to connect with others who had vitiligo, I felt a sense of empowerment knowing that others understood how I felt.
The Vitiligo Society, where I am a trustee, has played an important part in developing my personal growth. They have provided me, and so many other people, with the awareness and support needed to feel confident in our skin.