Some of you may be wondering how long we have known about vitiligo. It may surprise you but descriptions of ‘vitiligo’ like lesions date as far back as 3000 years ago in the Ancient Egyptian and pre-Hindu Vedic texts. The word ‘vitiligo’ is believed to have originated from the Latin term ‘vitium’ which translates to ‘blemish’. Throughout history, there have also been various images and texts that appear to depict what may have possibly been vitiligo, which you can read more here. Not much was known about vitiligo then and it was often confused with leprosy which also exhibited pale patches on the skin leading to stigmatisation targeted towards people with vitiligo.1
In the mid-18th to late 19th century, vitiligo was finally recognised as a medical condition.1,2 One of the most fundamental observations of vitiligo was by Hungarian physician and dermatologist Moriz Kaposi who described vitiligo lesions as having a ‘lack of pigment granules in the deep rete cells’.3 Since then increased awareness and research have led to much more being known about vitiligo. Ongoing studies in vitiligo continues as researchers all over the world aim to further understand the condition and develop new targeted treatment. A recent paper has shown that research in vitiligo has surged in the last 30 years.4
All efforts are contributed all over the world to raise awareness for vitiligo. Organisations, support groups and individuals across the globe work together make a difference to change the stigma that surrounds vitiligo and provide support for people with vitiligo. In 2011, the first Vitiligo Awareness Day was established. Since then, 25th June marks the annual global event for World Vitiligo Day, read more here.
Looking back at the history of vitiligo, a lot more is known about vitiligo and there is greater awareness and support for people with vitiligo. There is still more work to be done and we look forward to that day when there is no further stigma, and a cure is found!
- Millington GWM, Levell NJ. Vitiligo: the historical curse of depigmentation. International Journal of Dermatology. 2007;46:990-5.
- Spritz RA. Modern vitiligo genetics sheds new light on an ancient disease. The Journal of dermatology. 2013;40:310-8.
- Kaposi M. Pathologie und Therapie der Hautkrankheiten. Urban und Schwartzenberg; Vienna: 1879
- Katz EL, Harris JE. Translational Research in Vitiligo. Front Immunol. 2021;12:624517.
Dr Jennifer Nguyen - Secretary of the VAA