Seek treatment. That's the message doctors have for those with the skin disease, vitiligo. It's a long-term condition characterised by white patches of skin, indicating a loss of pigment. Yesterday marked World Vitiligo Day.
JOHANNESBURG - Tuesday marked World Vitiligo Day and doctors are encouraging people affected by the condition to seek treatment.
It's a long-term condition characterised by white patches of skin, indicating a loss of pigment, affecting at least 8 percent of the South African population.
The skin disease can have a significant negative social and psychological impact on patients, partly because of misconceptions around the illness, creating stigma.
Joyce Rooskrans (70), who has vitiligo, explained, "doctors said to me it's nothing to be ashamed of, but when you live there outside, people don't always know what is going on in your life."
"Because there is a sudden change on your skin and on your face. Even at church people speak behind your back, and that is very, very uncomfortable.
"It makes me feel very sad. Some people don't realize that you can hear them. They don't say it to your face but you can see their body language".
Doctors say the disease can lead to death if not properly treated.
"When you look at the actual patch because it loses the melanin, it loses protection. So, those areas can develop skin cancer," said dermatologist, Jabu Nkehli.
But Nkehli emphasised that vitiligo is not contagious, and people don't need to change their behaviour towards sufferers.
She says it's not clear what causes the condition.