Coping with Vitiligo at Work

Vitiligo is a condition of the skin, which causes de-pigmentation of the affected areas. The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown but research has produced a number of findings all relating the illness to genetic problems, viral/ neural issues and autoimmunity. Vitiligo can occur almost anywhere on the body including the face, hands and legs however the condition is most noticeable around body orifices.

Less than 1% of the global population develop vitiligo and although the condition is considered to be relatively painless (although some sufferers do report discomfort) many of the affected develop extreme depression and mood disorders owed to the stigma of having vitiligo.

The symptoms of vitiligo such as white spots on skin generally start to show whilst in teenage years and the condition does not always respond to treatment. Many workers find themselves subject to prejudice and ridicule for having an issue with their skin especially when it is affected a particularly visible area of the body such as the face. Whilst discrimination is frowned upon in many organisations it does take place so it is advisable to speak to a superior or the HR team if you are being subjected to mistreatment by other members of staff.

If discrimination is happening in by other members of staff in the workplace it can be dealt with accordingly. However if the person in question works in a role that involves vast amounts of interaction with the general public, who are usually uneducated as to what vitiligo is, they may be discriminated against which can lead to severe mental issues if not addressed promptly.

Treatments for vitiligo have a differing success rate depending on the subject. However many affected by the condition state that they use ‘make up’ and cover up techniques to hide the light areas of skin which substantially increases their self confidence.

Other treatment options include:

ñ  UVB photo-therapy: A treatment that can be administered at home or in a clinic this option involves a UVB lamp to which the light is applied to the affected area for set amounts of time. This is the most common treatment option however many believe that it is unreliable at best.

ñ  PUVA photo-therapy: Similar to UVB photo-therapy in the sense that UV light is applied to the affected area this treatment can only be carried out in hospital clinics and would require a course of 2 treatments a week for anywhere between 6-12 months.

ñ  Transplanting melanocytes: Showing results of almost complete re-pigmentation of the skin in around 80% of patients this process involves transplanting a thin layer of skin (taken usually from the gluteal region) and separating the melanocytes.

Complete de-pigmentation

In severe cases of vitiligo this treatment may be offered to render the skin an even colour. This is done my offering medication such as monobenzone and the process which takes around a year to complete is considered to be a permanent solution. If you have undergone the process of de-pigmentation you would be advised to ensure that your skin is kept safe from the sun as excessive exposure could increase your chances of developing conditions relating to malignant melanoma.