Question 5. Is it true that my quality of life ...?

Key points

  • Vitiligo may impair one’s quality of life mainly because it is poorly understood in many communities.
  • It is often confused with leprosy or sexual infections, and even seen as a sign of a sin or a sort of punishment sent by God.
  • Women are generally more psychologically affected by the skin disorder than men.
  • For doctors, it is important to assess the patient’s quality of life during encounters, and take action.
  • The dermatologist must always inform vitiligo patients of the possibility of successful treatments: this changes the patient’s mood immediately.
  • Observation of re-pigmentation over the white patches always brings optimism to the vitiligo patient.
  • Psychotherapy can be of help in selected cases, but only after careful consideration.
  • Regional Vitiligo Support Groups and VRF are committed to eradicate all discriminatory attitudes against vitiligo sufferers all over the world.

It is true that vitiligo can be a psychologically devastating disease, especially in darker skinned individuals and in case of improper management by the dermatologist.

The assessment of quality of life should always be made during the first consultation, because there may be a difference between patient’s and physician assessment of severity, and it should be followed during treatment to assess the patient’s satisfaction. Studies suggest that vitiligo imparts a mental and emotional burden comparable to that of chronic hand eczema or psoriasis, and that women tend to suffer more than men. Vitiligo patients also experience sexual difficulties and a variety of psychological problems, such as adjustment disorder, sleep disturbance, depression, anxiety, and so-called “dysthymia”.

Clinical variables, such as duration, facial or chest involvement, unsuccessful previous treatment, darker skin type, and the extent of disease may predict a poorer quality of life. In fact, vitiligo may be, or may become, a psychologically devastating disorder. The fact that it typically occurs in exposed areas (face and hands) has a major impact on self- esteem and perception of the self. In many societies, vitiligo is poorly understood and is believed to be a sign of leprosy or sexually transmitted infection. In these societies, women with vitiligo have difficulty getting married and finding educational and vocational opportunities according to their skills. Many patients worry about the disease worsening, have their social life affected, and feel embarrassment, depression, and shame. 

Correct information on vitiligo (extended to non-affected subjects, media system and to the Authorities) will rapidly change this outrageously and incredible discriminated attitude against the alteration of the color of the skin. Vitiligo support groups and the VRF are committed to fighting against all irrational feelings and behaviors which negatively impact the quality of life of vitiligo patients all over the world.

Author: Prof. Torello Lotti, MD

Please be advised that all information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician or health practitioner. Users are warned against changing any aspects of their treatment, diet or lifestyle based on this information without first consulting a registered medical practitioner. While every precaution is taken to ensure accuracy, VR Foundation makes no warranty as to the reliability, accuracy, timeliness, usefulness or completeness of the content which reflect personal opinion of the authors.

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