• Patients need to be seen and treated as normal human beings
The storm that swept me into Bungoma Chemist Hospital on May of 2014, started as a cloud as small as an atom. The cloud gradually persisted over the years cultivating into an immense disorder that drowned my happiness, plastering my life with everlasting somber note.
I was first aware of the unfolding of white patches on some parts of my body forming symmetrical patterns. I had earlier been told by my friends, that the spots were “birth marks”. As days went by, I could witness rapid increment of the spots. I sensed something had gone amiss.
Every mornings were bad enough on my side. I would wake up, head to the mirror to get an eyeful of my unclothed body as to examine injustices the ailment had served my body. I would get back to my spacious bed, lie there for almost two hours gazing at the celling close to tears.
“This is neither related to albinism nor disability. It is a skin problem where the cells producing melanin stops the production of such pigment. This eventually leads to formation of white patches on your skin. The disorder is termed as vitiligo and it has no cure,”explained Doctor Machio, a dermatologist at Bungoma Chemist Hospital in Bungoma county.
Visualizing the ordinary life I had led for the past three years full of association and connections with my peers, suicidal thought could not spare my mind. Imagining that I had no option but to accept my fate, was so traumatizing. My lifestyle totally changed.
At that moment, the patches had already reached my legs and even shoes could not
hide them from the public. Unfortunately, I was surrounded by individuals unacquainted of the illness. They filled my world with open-ended questions regarding the disease. I could easy lie that I got burned with acidic fluids as to cut the story short.
My annoyance over discriminating persons suffering from vitiligo is so intense that I have been prompted to write my story as to create awareness on the issue.
WHAT IS VITILIGO
"Vitiligo is an autoimmune skin disease that is characterized by the progressive destruction of melanocytes, which are mature melanin-forming cells in the skin, by immune cells called autoreactive CD8+ T cells that result in patches of white depigmented skin", says Anand K. Ganesan, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology and vice chair for dermatology research at UCI School of Medicine.
WHO GETS VITILIGO?
According to Dermatologist, Christopher Arpey of Mayo clinic specialists, anyone is eligible to vitiligo whether a kid, adult or older persons.
Vitiligo affects all races and sexes equally. It’s more visible in people with darker skin tones. Although vitiligo can develop in anyone at any age, macules or patches usually become apparent before age 30.
Research conducted by Cleveland clinic, states that one is at a higher risk of developing vitiligo he or she has autoimmune conditions such as anaemia, diabetes (Type 1) and thyroid diseases among others.
As a victim of this disease, I can attest that vitiligo attacks any part of the body. It may be even present on ones tongue, on hair and even on one's private areas. The diseases doesn't affect specific areas of the body, but occurs anywhere on your body.
STIGMA OF VITILIGO
Vitiligo as a disease has shown to cause significant psychological distress among patients.According to research by American Academy of Dermatology,people with vitiligo are battling with emotional challenges such as feeling embarrassed about the way their skin looks.
Some people diagnosed with vitiligo develop low self-esteem. This could cause anxiety or depression and make someone want to isolate themselves or avoid social situations.
For many years, I have lived in self denial with struggles of low self esteem. I was forced to isolate myself from all activities that could expose the whitish vitiligo spots. I was much convinced and worried that I was growing unattractive on daily basis.
I felt like I was an incomplete human being especially when some of my relatives could mock me by referring me to as " small albino". Every time I recall the statement, I used to cry till I slept without having any meal.
FACTS ON VITILIGO
According to Global Vitiligo Foundation;70 million people across the world have vitiligo.This means that nearly 1% of the population throughout the world is affected and 20-35% of patients are children.
Vitiligo is not contagious. whether you come in contact with vitiligo patients or share utensils and bedding, you cannot get infected.
Vitiligo has no known cure. There is no treatment established worldwide. It is a lifetime condition that calls for self acceptance from the victim and support for family members and the community at large.
Vitiligo is not related to other skin diseases such as albinism or skin cancer but is an autoimmune disease in which the immune attacks melanocytes cells.
SUPPORT PEOPLE WITH VITILIGO
"Some people diagnosed with vitiligo find counselling or visiting a mental health professional beneficial to help improve their self-esteem, anxiety or depression that can be associated with changes to their skin ", asserted Dr Machio of Bungoma Chemist hospital.
Vitiligo can cause psychological distress and can affect a person’s outlook and social interactions. Such patients need to be seen and treated as normal human being, treated equally without discrimination and be encouraged on their appearance throughout their lives.