Part 3: Weird to some is wonderful to others!
Most #vitiligo sufferers are the object of #curiosity at some time in their lives. Many are content to let their white patches show and would not consider themselves to be “sufferers” at all. Thanks to a greater awareness of the condition and improved levels of support and solidarity among the vitiligo community online, this appears to be a growing trend, and a very positive one in my opinion. But I must confess that I always belonged to that other – and probably larger – group of individuals affected by vitiligo who preferred to keep my skin condition completely private. For most of the 50 or so years that I had widespread vitiligo I was remarkably successful at hiding the fact. But, despite my best efforts, there were occasions when I attracted the attention of others and had to field the inevitable comments and questions that followed. “What happened to your hands?”, “Did you know that you have some white eyelashes?” “Have you burned yourself?”, etc., etc. I am sure that these sorts of questions – and the stares that generally accompany them – will be familiar to many of you reading this blog.
If it's any consolation, it seems you don't have to have anything as out of the ordinary as two-tone skin to elicit unwanted comments, as this blogger with pale skin discovered. (I love her reaction to the woman on the beach!) It goes to show that you can have the most beautiful, smooth skin tone and still not live up to others' expectations of how “normal” skin should look. What is rather shocking is the fact that people feel justified in commenting at all and that they don't seem to consider that it can cause offence.
If having irregular #whitepatches (or even just a #fairskin) is enough to prompt remarks from strangers that – let's face it – in only marginally different circumstances would be considered racist and completely unacceptable, then spare a thought for those who live with less common pigmentary conditions. One such condition is called Cutaneous Mosaicism which, as the name suggests, causes the skin to have mosaic-like patterns of pigmentation. This genetic disorder occurs when the skin cells within the same individual have different genetic makeup: in other words, when two or more genetically different populations of cells exist side by side within a person's skin. The two cell lines develop very early in the life of the embryo, resulting in one of several different pigmentary patterns. (Types of #Mosaicism also occur in animals where they are a much more familiar sight.)
The various patterns are known as:
Type 1: Blaschko's lines (divided into narrow or broad bands)
Type 2: Checkerboard pattern
Type 3: Phylloid (leaf-like) pattern
Type 4: Large patches (congenital melanocytic naevi)
Type 5: Lateralisation (CHILD syndrome)
The picture above is an example of Blaschko's Lines Mosaicism. These lines are believed to trace the migration of embryonic cells and, whilst invisible under normal conditions, are revealed in the presence of certain skin conditions. (Various documents suggest that segmental vitiligo may be one of these.)
Reading around this whole subject over the last few days has made me realise just how many processes have to happen without a hitch from the very moment a baby is conceived in order for it to have the perfectly smooth and flawless skin that most people regard as the norm. This reminds me of how unique and miraculous each human being is and it also makes me wonder why it is that we, as a species, find it so hard to accept unusual markings and colours on other humans and yet we appreciate their beauty when we see them elsewhere in the animal kingdom.
My name is Caroline.