Former Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding today
Yvette Fielding, who was Blue Peter's youngest ever presenter at just 17, has battled with the skin condition vitiligo for most of her life. Yvette, 34, who lives in Cheshire with her husband Karl Beattie, 40, a cameraman and producer, and children William, nine, and Mary, three, tells Angela Epstein her story.
'At this time of year, the arrival of summer is all people seem to talk about. The shops are full of gorgeous bikinis and skimpy dresses, and on a sunny day everyone loves to sit basking in the rays.
I love the sun, too. But, for me, it can be a real nightmare. Unless I put on suncream with an SPF of 60 - the highest I can get, and even then it's not always enough - I burn badly.
My eyes are so sensitive to sunlight, too, that I have to wear sunglasses whenever I'm outside on a bright day.
I love beaches, and refuse to let my family miss out on holidays. But I have to sit under the biggest parasol I can find, and huddle in the shade.
I don't let it get me down, though. People live with terrible illnesses. At least, for the most part, I can get on with my life.
And this has been my life since I developed vitiligo, a skin condition caused by a malfunction of the immune system.
This causes white patches on the skin that are completely devoid of pigment due to an absence of cells called melanocytes in the affected area. Melanocytes are responsible for producing melanin, the skin pigment which makes us tan.
I always knew about the condition, since my mother has suffered from it since she was 24. She is genetically very dark-skinned, so the white patches on her arms and legs looked dramatic.
Of course, she worried that vitiligo could be hereditary. Doctors assured her it wasn't. But one day, when I was 11, I was at school when I noticed this blob of white on my thumb, the size of a two pence piece.
After school I raced home and burst into tears. Was it happening to me, too?
Vitiligo genes, I learned, are random in their combination, and it can take several generations for the condition to appear in a family. But in my case, it seemed it had been passed from mother to daughter.
Over the next few months, more white patches started to appear, first on my hands and knees and then on my face. There was no known cure then, and I had to face the constant horror of seeing more of my darkish skin - I am a quarter Syrian - disappear.
By the age of 20 I was completely white, and had no pigment in my hair, eyelashes or eyebrows. I was like an albino. The only benefit was that there were no patches. People who didn't know me just presumed I was very white-skinned.
But the 'patchwork' changeover during my teens, when my skin was half white and half brown, was difficult. Luckily I'm quite a tough character, and coped at school by hardening myself to comments such as 'giraffe'.
My mother and I did go to a clinic in Manchester which offered make-up lessons for sufferers. But they used a product called Derma Colour - a cosmetic used for stage and television - and it was just too thick. My salvation was my love of drama, and I refused to let vitiligo stop me performing.
Through a children's TV show I appeared in, I came to the attention of Blue Peter editor Biddy Baxter, who took me on as a presenter when I was just 17.
Though a thrilling experience, Blue Peter was a challenge with my condition. When we went on the Blue Peter summer expeditions to places such as Jamaica, I had to be painted in the highest factor sun cream.
Vitiligo skin has no natural protection against the sun's rays because the melanocyte cells, which should produce melanin to turn the skin brown, are not active. In normal skin, this is a protective mechanism to prevent damage by burning.
My skin is so sensitive that when we were filming on a warm but cloudy day at a water park in Cornwall, I ended up with third-degree burns.
I had to be flown home to my mum in Manchester to be cared for. The sun's rays had penetrated through the clouds and burned me everywhere - even through my swimming costume.
Biddy Baxter suggested I do a feature on vitiligo for Blue Peter, and made me show my patchy body to the cameras.
I was mortified, but got so many letters from children with terrible skin complaints applauding my so-called bravery that it reminded me I mustn't feel sorry for myself.
One of the most annoying things about vitiligo is that it is so high-maintenance. Lack of pigment in my hair has turned it patchy white and grey, so I have to have it coloured every three weeks. I'm only 34, and refuse to look old before my time. In recent times I've heard of various treatments for vitiligo. Steroid creams can be used for a limited period and may restore some colour.
A more dramatic treatment involves taking a drug called Psoralen, which is activated by UVA rays and entails exposure in a hospital light cabinet.
What puts me off trying any of these is that they could bring back patches of my original colour but fail to transform my whole body. I just couldn't go back to the patchy state of my teens.
Vitiligo is a difficult condition because you never know how your skin will react in a given situation. But I have been more fortunate that other sufferers.
For example, my eyes have not gone albino pink like some do, and have retained their bluey-green colour. They are very sensitive, though, which suggests I have lost pigment.
I've never let vitiligo hold me back, and I never will. I have a fulfilling career, as presenter of Living TV's Most Haunted, and a wonderful family.
I can only pray that my children haven't inherited this awful condition. I slap SPF 60 on them when we go on holiday and am over-anxious about exposing them to the sun. I can only do my best for them
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-179661/Yvette-battle-vitiligo.html#ixzz2kYcQs9bT
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