What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a skin condition where white patches, called de-pigmentation, develop on the skin. Vitiligo is not life threatening or contagious but many people feel upset by the changes to their body and it is widely known to cause psychological distress to people with the condition.
Vitiligo is thought to be an autoimmune condition, where areas of the skin have no or very few melanocytes due to either being damaged or destroyed. Melanocytes are what is need to produce melanin which gives skin its colour. This leaves white patches across the body.
Who gets Vitiligo?
About 1 in 100 people develop Vitiligo, which equates to approximately 50 million people worldwide. It effects both men and women equally and can develop at any age. There is some genetic factor involved and Vitiligo may run in the family – about 1 in 3 people affected have another family member affected by the condition. It does not affect one ethnic group more than any other.
Where do people get Vitiligo?
People can get Vitiligo anywhere in their body, although the most common areas are the face, neck and scalp. Other common sites include the backs of hands, front of knees, elbows and genitals. It is often symmetrical and patches may appear on similar places on each arm or leg.
Support for Vitiligo
Vitiligo is currently under-researched but the World Vitiligo Day movement is an important part of raising awareness of Vitiligo and funding further vital research and education programmes.
Michael Jackson was the most famous person to have Vitiligo but many other celebrities have the condition, including Winnie Harlow, Brian Friedman and chef Dean Edwards.
A Canadian model, Winnie Harlow came sixth in America’s Next Top Model and now models for a range of high-profile clothing brands. Winnie uses her profile and has become a ‘Vitiligo spokes-model’. She talks openly about the abuse she has faced since she was diagnosed with Vitiligo aged four. Winnie hasn’t let the condition hold her back and we think it’s great to have Vitiligo shown in a positive light.