Understanding Rare Skin Conditions: A Look Into Vitiligo
Education and Advocacy Vitiligo is a skin condition in which the skin loses melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for skin, hair, and eye colour.
As a result, irregularly shaped, smooth white patches appear on different parts of the body. Usually, the disorder is progressive, meaning that over time the white patches will spread to other areas of the body.
Breaking the stigma
Vitiligo is neither dangerous nor contagious. The condition seems to run in families and occurs more often among people who have certain autoimmune diseases. Studies suggest that these different autoimmune diseases probably share at least some predisposing genetic or environmental causal factors, although these mostly remain unknown.
An up-and-coming model and Toronto native Chantelle Young-Brown is on the upcoming cycle of America’s Next Top Model. Chantelle, who has had vitiligo since she was very young, is a face to be remembered as she sets strides to break social stigmas for those that feel isolated for having vitiligo and often feel ashamed of their appearance. Her confidence and determination to pursue her dreams in the spotlight has made her an emblem of true beauty.
Reaching out for support
Chantelle is a role model and spokesperson for those that have vitiligo and often feels stigmatized and socially isolated. Although vitiligo is a rare skin condition, that only about 0.5 to 1 percent of the general population has, it is important not to feel alone and build a better understanding of this condition.
Vitiligo does not impact a person’s overall physical health: however, if the white patches are in a prominent place (e.g., hands or face), it may result in feelings of self-consciousness, embarrassment, depression, or anxiety. In these situations, psychological counselling can restore self-confidence and positive self-image.
Vitiligo support groups can also be a useful forum for sharing concerns and coping strategies. Associations such as Vitiligo Support International and the National Vitiligo Foundation (NVF) can provide additional information. By increasing public understanding of this rare skin condition, we can decrease the social stigma and create a network of support for those affected.