A NEW SERIES THAT WILL IMPACT YOUR LIFE
Preparing for the Unexpected Challenges that Life Brings Us
May 24, 2017
EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to “Life Happens, Be Prepared,” a new UAW-Chrysler.Com feature. Articles and videos will tackle life’s daily challenges, ranging from health and family issues to financial problems and decisions that lead to happier, more fulfilling days ahead. The first installment of this occasional series is devoted to vitiligo, an often misunderstood, emotionally devastating disorder caused by destruction of cells that produce the skin pigment melanin. Learn more from the video in UAW-Chrysler In Motion on our homepage.
By Jonathan Powell
Tamar Braxton, Steve Martin, Rasheed Wallace, Dudley Moore and Sisqo have one thing in common with the iconic American entertainer Michael Jackson, besides being major celebrities. They all suffer from vitiligo.
Vitiligo (vit-ih-LIE-go) is a disease that causes the loss of skin color in blotches. The spots occur when pigment cells, or melanocytes, are destroyed and the pigment melanin can no longer be produced. Melanocytes usually occur in hair follicles, the mouth, eyes, hands and face.
About 1 to 2 percent of the world’s population – 40 to 50 million people – have vitiligo. In the United States, 2 to 5 million people have the disorder. In most cases, it develops early in life, between the ages of 10 and 30.
Jackson had the best-known case of vitiligo; rumor has it he wore a single white glove to hide some of the blotches on his hand.
Both men and women are equally likely to develop vitiligo. It may run in families; those with a family history of vitiligo or premature graying of the hair are at increased risk.
Vitiligo’s victims typically go to great lengths to hide it from the world. It changes the way they see themselves, as well as how the world perceives them. They may no longer want to hang out with friends. Some are so depressed they’ve thought about or attempted suicide.
Using make-up to cover the light blotches on the skin is the most common way of concealing the disease. This works as long as the spots remain small and are contained in one area of the body.
Most people have vitiligo for life, so it’s important that they develop coping strategies.
Doctors use topical ointments, light therapy and even surgery to treat vitiligo, but there is no cure. The goal of treatment is to stop or slow the progression of depigmentation and, if desired by the patient, attempt to restore some color to their skin.
Doctors may recommend use of sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) above 30, avoiding midday sun and keeping the depigmented skin patches covered when outside.
Unlike most vitiligo victims, African American television journalist Lee Thomas made the courageous decision to speak out about the disease – but only after overcoming his fears about the consequences of going public. At its worst, nearly 40 percent of Thomas’ body was covered with the white spots.
He’s the author of the bestselling Turning White: A Memoir of Change. In his book, Thomas shares his journey to heighten public awareness of vitiligo and help victims cope with the psychological war they wage with this life-changing disease.
“This is one black man’s story that has absolutely nothing to do with racism,” said Thomas, an entertainment reporter and news anchor at FOX 2 News in Detroit. To learn more about Thomas’ story, click here https://youtu.be/gqhEYF-uHEA.
Thomas seeks to promote better understanding for those of us who can’t fathom how it feels to be called a “monster” or a “freak of nature” on a daily basis.
If you know of anyone who has vitiligo, especially young children, please share the following information with them.
The American Vitiligo Foundation is offering its 2017 Children’s Vitiligo Retreat, Aug. 25-27, in Canby Oregon. For more information, visit http://avrf.org/.
So the next time you see someone who doesn’t look quite like you, before you make fun of them or point a finger, remember the lyrics from Michael Jackson’s song, Man in the Mirror.
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that change!
Page designed by Jonathan Powell, NTC Communications