Remembering Michael Jackson And His Lifelong Fight Against Vitiligo

As we remember to celebrate the 58th Birth Anniversary of the “King of Pop” Michael Jackson, we are also reminded of the disease that plagued him during the most of his lifetime.

Vitiligo!  A condition in which white patches develop on the skin. Any location on the body can be affected and most people with vitiligo have white patches on many areas of their body.

Vitiligo is a frequent and often disfiguring skin disease that can have a significantly negative social and psychological impact on patients.

“In India, about 2-5% of the population is affected by vitiligo. The social stigma attached with the disease, mostly in South Asia, is largely due to white patches prominently standing out on darker skin complexions,” said noted dermatologist, Dr. Arvind Singh, who is also the secretary of Indian Medical Association (IMA), Varanasi. The disease not only has a huge psycho-social stigma, but also has many myths attached to it.

“Many people believe vitiligo to be hereditary or contagious disease but it is not so. The reason for social stigma is because people confuse it with leprosy. While leprosy is called ‘Kushtarog’, vitiligo is termed as ‘Shwetakushta’ in ancient Indian texts. But, vitiligo is only a condition in which immune system destroys melanocytes (melanin-forming cell) in the skin, and it has nothing to do with leprosy,” explained Dr. Singh. “People need to be made aware that vitiligo is simply a skin condition which can be treated and does not spread through physical contact,” he added.

Citing the contradictions which need to be dispelled immediately, Singh said, “People need not look down upon those suffering from vitiligo as it causes no harm; secondly, it is non-contagious and has no relation to leprosy.” Furthermore, clothing, footwear and modern living habits must be watched as they might not cause vitiligo but precipitate it. Besides this, as soon as a person figures out de-pigmentation of the skin, he/she must be given immediate treatment rather than being ostracized by the people, shared Dr. Singh stressing that more awareness is required to drive out the myths prevalent about this disease, especially in the rural areas.

Dr. Singh also educated the audience that vitiligo can be greatly reduced and cured in about 50% of the cases and that early detection and treatment are important aspects in curing this skin disease. “Vitiligo can be treated by various methods. These include oral drugs, psoralen therapy or steroid pulse therapy, application of lotion, narrow band ultra-violet radiation and excimer laser. Of these, most recent NBUV radiation and excimer laser are considered most effective treatment for vitiligo,” informed Dr. Singh.

Vitiligo commonly affects areas on the skin that are exposed to sun, body folds (such as armpits), previous sites of injury, areas around moles, or areas around body openings.

So let’s all pledge to eradicate the common stigmas attached to this portentous disease and celebrate the day listening to the legendary King of Music Videos’ songs.