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“Winter Skin, Don’t Ignore White Spots”

Posted December. 26, 2004 22:50,   


Pop star Michael Jackson is black, but his face is as white as a Caucasian.

At a news conference, he said, “I cannot help but decolorize my skin due to a serious white spot syndrome.” There were so many large white spots so he followed his private doctor’s opinion that it was better to make his normal black skin white.

It is unknown whether or not Michael Jackson longed to be a white man. However, it is true that white spot syndrome makes people lose confidence in their appearance, which causes serious stress. This is why so many patients have visited their doctors recently.

White spot syndrome is a disease that causes white spots on the skin when the melanin cells disappear. The cause of the disease has not been discovered yet, but it is influential that melanin cells are destroyed due to the immune system abnormality.

It is a common disease, with one or two out of every 100 people affected. Usually before age 20, people get this, and 20 to 25 percent of them have a family history of the disease. It is estimated that there are about 400,000 patients in Korea.

The Need for More Delicate Observation in Winter -

The white spot syndrome is not affected by the seasons. It has nothing to do with the characteristics of the skin. However, there are many patients who visit their doctors from late spring to summer. This is because white spots are easily discovered when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays.

Meanwhile, it is rarer to see patients visiting their doctors in winter than are expected. This is because they consider white spots as calluses or scabs and ignore them. Also, it is difficult for those who have white skin to distinguish the white spots. They have less exposure than any season because it is difficult to find white spots.

White spots do diffuse. It is easy to cure if the spot is discovered within six months of the onset of the symptom. However, it takes a long time to cure, and it is difficult to operate if the spot becomes bigger than the size of a palm.

Let’s take a close look at the skin. It starts with one or two small spots. White spots appear everywhere on your body including the eyebrows, the mouth mucosa, and around the sexual organs.

The Cure Rate Increased Thanks to Ultraviolet Ray Treatment-

White spots diffuse and cease diffusing in a moment. Then it doesn’t worsen any further. However, there is neither a natural cure nor a complete recovery. It is possible to cure to some extent with a steroid skin cream if the spot is discovered when it is small.

The average cure rate has increased by 50 to 70 percent thanks to ultraviolet ray treatment. In the past, ultraviolet rays burned the surroundings of the white spot, but recently a new method to burn the white spot exactly has been developed and spotlighted. Its drawback is that the one-time surgical operation costs more than 50,000 won, which is quite expensive.

The ultraviolet ray treatment is effective if done twice a week for a year. It has another drawback- it is effective for recovering the original skin color on the face, body, arms, and legs, but it is less effective for the hands and feet. In addition, freckles may appear during a longstanding cure.

If this kind of treatment doesn’t work, it is possible to cure by grafting other normal skin onto the white spot or covering the pigments.

The cure for white hair disease including hairs and eyebrows takes a long time and is hard. Especially, to graft skins to cure hair requires frequent maintenance. Consulting a doctor is indispensable.

Like Michael Jackson, one can eliminate the pigments of the normal skin and adjust them to other parts. It is rare in Korea. The skin becomes white permanently if one uses medicine for a year. However, if the skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays, the decolorized skin can become dark. Accordingly, continuing skin treatment is necessary.

(Tips: Professor Park Yoon-ki, dermatologist at Sebrans Hospital, and professor Choi Ji-ho, dermatologist at Seoul Asan Hospital)

Sang Hoon Kim corekim@donga.com