World Vitiligo Day!
Posted On: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
John E. Harris
World Vitiligo Day is tomorrow, June 25th. It was established to raise awareness for vitiligo, a disfiguring autoimmune disease that causes white spots on the skin. The 25th of June was selected in remembrance of Michael Jackson, who suffered from vitiligo and died on that day in 2009. Each year World Vitiligo Day has become a bigger and bigger event, now with vitiligo sufferers, their families, and doctors making an effort to talk about the disease, raise money for research, give free skin exams, and educate physicians on how to best take care of patients with vitiligo.
Vitiligo awareness is important for many reasons. Many do not understand the disease, fearing that it may be infectious or contagious, which results in staring or other odd and insensitive behaviors toward those who suffer with vitiligo. In some cultures, having such a visible disease makes it difficult or impossible to marry. In my clinic, I am often told that I am the 4th, 5th or sometimes 6th doctor to see my patient, and that the others told them that there are no effective treatments for vitiligo, which is not true – read about available treatments here. Importantly, research in vitiligo is critically important, to determine its cause, to find new treatments and, ultimately, a cure. Funding for vitiligo research, and any research for that matter, is becoming very difficult to find, and our hope is that public awareness will motivate private philanthropists to contribute, and help prioritization of the disease by federal and other funding agencies.
The Vitiligo Research Foundation has spearheaded an effort to collect 500,000 signatures on a petition to get international recognition for Vitiligo Day by the United Nations. The current total is 483,960 names, and my name is #1180 – with 16,040 names to go, please consider adding your name to the list.