By Dr Liji Thomas, MD
Vitiligo is not a life-threatening disease, but may cause deep emotional and psychological problems. In addition, it can severely inhibit the social life and career of the affected person, especially in less developed areas of the world. In such regions the white patches are often thought to be the result of leprosy or of sexually transmitted disease.
This is all the more so because it so frequently affects visible areas of the body, such as the fingers, face, arms and feet. Some common reactions to having vitiligo include shame, embarrassment, fear of facing the reaction of others, or depression. It is reported that vitiligo patients have a rate of depression which is twice that of the general population.
Coping with vitiligo is easier with good support. Since most treatments take a long time, and do not promise complete success in repigmenting the white patches, it is important to find a doctor who takes your concerns seriously and works with you to help you improve the quality of your life. Your healthcare providers can also help you deal with depression, which is why you should let them know if you are low emotionally.
Learning about the disease may be helpful if you are able to understand the information you find. However, make sure you research the treatment you are offered, and ask your doctor about it, so that you can own the final decision that is made about your medical care.
Some people find that using camouflaging makeup helps them feel better about themselves. However, this is usually possible only with localized vitiligo. Even then, you may have to modify the mode of application or change the brand you use until you are satisfied with its look and feel.
The importance of treatment is in reducing the burden of disease, and providing a considerable improvement in terms of emotional, psychological and job security. In addition, joining a support group is often very useful in helping to achieve a sense of wellbeing and confidence, as well as recovering from depression.
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2016