Stigma key reason for high depression among vitiligo patients: Doctors

New Delhi, June 25 (IANS) Vitiligo, a condition causing white patches on the skin, can have a profound impact beyond physical appearance. Societal stigmas are increasing the risk of depression among the patients, said doctors on World Vitiligo Day on Tuesday.

World Vitiligo Day is observed every year on June 25 to raise awareness about vitiligo and related issues.

Vitiligo is a skin condition characterised by the loss of skin colour in patches. It occurs when melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin (the pigment that gives skin its colour), are destroyed or stop functioning.

The exact cause of vitiligo is not fully understood, but it’s believed to involve the immune system attacking pigment cells. A combination of genetic, autoimmune, stress, and environmental factors such as sunburn are likely to contribute to the condition.

It manifests as white patches on the skin, anywhere on the body, sometimes including hair, eyes, and the inside of the mouth.

“Vitiligo can lead to social isolation and discrimination due to the visible changes in skin pigmentation. This negativity from society can significantly impact self-esteem and contribute to feelings of depression,” Dr Pankaj B Borade, Consultant Psychiatrist, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, told IANS.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Dermatology, showed that 89 per cent of vitiligo patients in India report moderate to high depressive symptoms.

The high mental stress among patients was due to the prevalence of a negative perception of vitiligo, revealed the study.

Dr Pankaj said that this mental distress can disrupt daily life, affecting everything from social interactions to clothing choices.

“The study suggests social stigma might be particularly strong in India, potentially explaining the higher depression rates. The appearance of vitiligo patches can be stressful and affect a person’s body image. This can lead to anxiety, social withdrawal, and feelings of isolation, all of which are risk factors for depression.

“Beauty standards in India that place a high value on fair skin make vitiligo even more challenging for patients,” the doctor said.

Dr. Sunil Kumar Prabhu, Consultant – Dermatology, Aster RV Hospital, told IANS that there’s no cure for vitiligo, but management strategies and regular consultations with a dermatologist can significantly improve quality of life.

“Treatment focuses on restoring colour or creating a more even skin tone, with options ranging from topical creams and light therapy to surgical procedures in severe cases,” he said adding that sun protection, stress reduction, and avoiding skin injuries are key ways to prevent.



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