Although many may be surprised, vitiligo dates back more than 3000 years and is mentioned across historic Egyptian and Vedic texts. The disease itself was named by the Roman physician Celsus because of the resemblance between the pigmentless spots on people’s skin and the white spots on vitelius, or calves in Latin. Vitiligo has been scientifically shown to spread and has no easy cure due to the multiple different causes of the disease: autoimmunity, oxidative stress, and genetics. Oxidative stress is the result of an imbalance between the radicals and antioxidants on our skin. The pigmentless spots are usually due to the radicals destroying the melanocyte’s arms that spread the pigment. Out of a total of 10 randomly selected Oakland Tech students, only two knew what vitiligo was.
People’s self-esteem and mental health in multiple age ranges are negatively impacted by vitiligo. In a National Library of Medicine report, a 62-year-old woman with vitiligo stated, “To lose color is to be a pale reflection of one’s former self.” This illustrates how she believes her life isn’t as valuable as it once was as her vitiligo spreads. This woman lived a long life and continues to struggle with her mental health. The impact on teenagers’ self-esteem is just as detrimental. A 13-year-old girl with vitiligo, also mentioned in the report, states, “I start to cry and tell myself horrible things like ‘I’m ugly,’ ‘what did I do to deserve this,’ and ‘I’m a horrible person.’” Her skin condition damages her self-confidence, depicting how one can be so negatively impacted by their self-image, even at the youthful age of thirteen.
The skin condition vitiligo has a significant impact on many people’s mental well-being and self-image. Anyone from any age range can be affected. Although there is currently no found cure, hope is essential, and solutions for damaged melanocytes are always possible in the future. It is vital to raise awareness of all diseases and educate one another about our differences. For now, people with vitiligo and any skin disease struggle with fitting into societal norms, and people need to accept each other, spots and all.