Vitiligo - Coping

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What coping methods have helped you in dealing with the emotional and psychological issues associated with vitiligo?

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How can people cope with the emotional and psychological aspects of vitiligo?

Although vitiligo is usually not harmful medically and causes no physical pain, its emotional and psychological effects can be devastating. In fact, in India, those with the disease, especially women, are sometimes discriminated against in marriage. Developing vitiligo after marriage can be grounds for divorce.

Regardless of a person's race and culture, white patches of vitiligo can affect emotional and psychological well-being and self-esteem. People with vitiligo can experience emotional stress, particularly if the condition develops on visible areas of the body (such as the face, hands, arms, and feet) or on the genitals. Adolescents, who are often particularly concerned about their appearance, can be devastated by widespread vitiligo. Some people who have vitiligo feel embarrassed, ashamed, depressed, or worried about how others will react.

Fortunately, there are several strategies to help people cope with vitiligo. Also, various treatments -- discussed in the next section -- can minimize, camouflage, or, in some cases, even eliminate white patches. First, it is important to find a doctor who is knowledgeable about the disorder and takes it seriously. The doctor should also be a good listener and be able to provide emotional support. You must let your doctor know if you are feeling depressed, because doctors and other mental health professionals can help people deal with depression. You should also learn as much as possible about the disorder and treatment choices so that you can participate in making important decisions about your medical care.

Talking with other people who have vitiligo may also help. The National Vitiligo Foundation can provide information about vitiligo and refer you to local chapters that have support groups of patients, families, and doctors. Contact information for the foundation is listed at the end of this booklet. Family and friends are another source of support.

Some people with vitiligo have found that cosmetics that cover the white patches improve their appearance and help them feel better about themselves. You may need to experiment with several brands of concealing cosmetics before finding the product that works best.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Spots, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: May 21

I was diagnosed with vitiligo by a dermatologist. He also told me I had Graves' disease, anyhow my vitiligo is on my face hands and feet and arms. If I get a scratch or a cut, after it heels my skin then turns white. I am Portuguese and German so my skin is a little darker than average. So I try to wear highest sun screen I can find. But it is still very noticeable. Once I was eating at a restaurant and at the table next to us a little girl said to her mom, look mom, that lady doesn't wash her arms, look how dirty they are. That just broke my heart so ever since then I try not to be out in public and I won't wear shorts or anything that shows too much skin. I hate this skin disorder but what can you do but live on.

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Comment from: im ok, 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: May 31

I was first diagnosed at age nine and am now 84. At first I had white spots in only a few areas that stayed dormant until my 30s when it started spreading and kept getting worse. After trying everything, my best course was to stay out of the sun to keep my natural pigment from tanning to avoid a strong contrast. It was difficult because I loved the beach and boating. However, staying out of the sun was a blessing in disguise. People usually guess my age to be 65 or 70 and refer to my skin as "beautiful". My advice is to not fight it and just accept it.

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