Chantelle Brown-Young, also known as Winnie Harlow, is a girl who had been called names such as “cow and zebra” when she was a little girl. Today, however, she is a standout in the runway and she wears the white patches in her skin, with pride.
Along with an estimated one percent of the population who suffer from a skin condition known as vitiligo, more patients like Chantelle are coming out to tell their stories to raise public awareness on this debilitating pigmentary disorder. If you are among the curious minds who are interested in knowing what this disease is, here are a few facts to get you started:
- It is also called leukoderma. From the word “leuko” which means white, and “derma”, pertaining to the skin, having vitiligo turns parts of your skin white, as the cells (called melanocytes) responsible for producing melanin (brown pigments responsible for skin color) die and stop functioning, leaving the affected skin areas literally without color.
- Melanocytes transplantation can treat Vitiligo. Maybe one of the most successful therapy methods in vitiligo treatment, melanocyte transplantation is showing increased rates of success. There are four methods, each of those being based on collecting healthy epidermis from other healthy areas of the patient’s body and reattaching those to the affected areas to catch and re-pigmentate those.
- Its cause is unknown. While the exact cause of this chronic skin disorder has not yet been identified, scientific studies associate vitiligo with autoimmunity and genetic disorders. The immune system mistakenly destroys the melanocytes, thinking they are some kind of infection. The involvement of genetics, on the other hand, raises the possibility that some people are susceptible to having this disease if one or more family members have it.
- It is non-contagious. Being around or having physical contact with someone who has vitiligo will not make you “catch” the disease. In fact, connection, empathy, and understanding towards people who suffer from this emotionally-devastating disease are encouraged, to help them heal psychologically and cope with the painful social stigma it entails.
- Although it has no known cure, certain treatment options are available. Currently, a known cure to totally eliminate vitiligo has yet to be discovered. There are, however, various treatment options which patients may choose from, to improve their quality of living. Some of the noted effective methods taken are vitiligo transplantation, use of topical creams and steroids, and phototherapy, to name a few.
Having a skin disorder such as vitiligo can be a life-altering event for anyone. While in the physical sense, the white patches seem painless and harmless, the extent of this disease is more than just a cosmetic matter. Enduring looks of disdain and judgment, suffering from emotional distress, and resorting to isolation, are among the few unfortunate consequences of the social stigma surrounding vitiligo patients.
Gathering accurate information about this skin condition is one crucial step in helping vitiligo patients. Your keen interest can very well make a difference in raising awareness about this disease and can aid in breaking the walls that isolate those who suffer from it. As the spread of information powered by social media plays a pivotal role in putting the spotlight on people like Chantelle Young Brown, society can be one step closer to embracing vitiligo patients with open arms.
Author Bio: Rana Tarakji is an entrepreneur and a contributing writer at One SEO, a digital marketing company in Lebanon, Beirut. Rana is passionate about digital marketing, startups, helping entrepreneurs grow, and empowering them to live their dreams. She has worked as a marketer, a technology co-founder and business developer, and a writer.