People who knew Mr Osita Masha from years back may no longer recognise him due to a sudden change in the colour of his skin caused by a skin condition called vitiligo. The 59- year-old man shares the story of how the skin condition started with just a small spot on his finger in 2015 before spreading all over his body, noting that even his bank forced him to do fresh National Identification Number registration to clear doubts about his identity. ANGELA ONWUZOO reports:
Mr. Osita Masha will not forget 2015 in a hurry. It was the year that the 59-year-old man began to have an identity crisis as the vitiligo that he acquired turned his dark skin into white. The development is still a mystery to him and his family to date.
According to the father of six, many who knew him before 2015 no longer recognise him owing to his new looks.
Those who are not aware of his plight accuse him of bleaching his skin while others wonder if he had a fire accident due to the sunburn on his face.
Mr. Masha said the stigma that he suffer daily since he developed the skin condition is unimaginable, noting that he was compelled by his bank to go for recapturing at the NIN for them to be sure that he was still the same person that they have on their system.
Mr. Masha’s skin condition remains strange to him, his doctors, and many others because vitiligo can appear on any part of the body such as the face, chest, leg, and genital region, and not the whole body.
The Delta State indigene who said his condition has consumed his business and life savings without a solution in sight, said a lot of people are attributing his skin condition to a spiritual attack because of its peculiarity.
Sharing his ordeal with PUNCH HealthWise, the businessman said he is tired of explaining to people what happened to his skin even as his condition has defied all medical, herbal, and spiritual solutions.
Not aware of vitiligo
Mr. Masha recounted how a white spot that appeared on one of his right fingers spread to his entire body after receiving an injection for its treatment, “I first noticed it on one of my right fingers in 2015. But I was born a dark-skinned person. The majority of my family members are dark in complexion. I have been a dark person until when I woke from sleep one day in 2015 and discovered that there was a white dot on my finger. I just overlooked it because I thought I scratched my body while I was sleeping.
“I later observed that the white dot refused to go. It was there for over three months. It later began to spread to other parts of my body little by little. My very observant daughter, one day, took a closer look at my skin and asked me what was responsible for the white patches on my skin and I told her that I didn’t know.
“After taking a closer look at my body, she told me “daddy, what you have is vitiligo. I then asked her what vitiligo was. It was the first time that I heard the word vitiligo. She was a student at Yaba College of Technology then. She told me that they had two students that had vitiligo. So, she advised me to go to the hospital and get treatment.”
Skin experts say vitiligo is an acquired condition of the skin with reduced or absent colouration/pigmentation leaving areas of white patches compared to other areas of the body. This, according to them, is due to the absence or nonfunction of cells called melanocytes responsible for the colouration of the skin.
Vitiligo not infectious
A Professor of Dermatology at the Obafemi Awolowo University/ Teaching Hospital, Ile Ife, Prof. Olayinka Olasode, told our correspondent in an exclusive interview that people with vitiligo are not born with the disease but acquire it along the way.
Prof Olasode, who is also a consultant physician & dermatologist, said, “The condition is not infectious. There are many causes documented for vitiligo. I will mention a few.
Family history occurs in some genetically predisposed individuals and in families who experience early hair graying. Some genes have been linked to its occurrence.”
She noted that chemical vitiligo can also occur when there is an exposure to some chemicals like those used in the rubber industry while also identifying autoimmune- where the body itself attacks the cells producing the pigments in the skin as another cause.
Prof Olasode who is an expert in Pigmentary Skin Diseases also stated that vitiligo might be associated with diabetes mellitus and other endocrine malfunctions.
The quinquagenarian who initially refused to heed his daughter’s advice, later sought medical interventions after so much persuasion by his family.
Continuing, Mr. Masha narrated, “I refused to heed my daughter’s advice and told her that the white patches were not scratching.
But she insisted I must go to the hospital. After much persuasion, I then visited a private hospital where the doctor told me that I had vitiligo and referred me to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Arabia.
“When I got to the Dermatology Department of LUTH, I saw many people with different white patches on their bodies including children. So, I became afraid wondering if mine will be like that.
“Later, a nurse came out to lecture everybody and told us that vitiligo had no known cure for now. She counselled us on the type of food to eat and most importantly urged us to develop self-confidence because skin conditions can make people fall into depression.
“She also advised us not to allow the skin condition to deprive us of our lives. After the lecture when I saw the doctor, he examined me and said, ‘Thank God you came on time.’
“The doctor told me that I will carry out two tests that very day and then take an injection before leaving. He told me that the injection will hold it from spreading.
Rapid spread after treatment
Mr. Masha, however, told our correspondent that his skin condition took a negative turn after taking the injection.
“But two weeks after receiving the injection even though I was given worm tablets, I noticed that the condition became more aggressive and spread to other parts of my body. So, I went back to the hospital before my appointment date to complain to the doctor that the condition had started spreading all over my body since I took the injection.
“After examining me, the doctor asked me to come back on the day of my appointment which was in two months after a series of tests and treatment in 2015, the skin condition kept on progressing without any improvement.
“By 2016, there were white patches all over my body. And so the doctor began to introduce me to different kinds of medicines. These medicines are quite expensive as some were sold for N50,000, a tablet and it is something that I must take daily. The doctors told me that my type of vitiligo is rare and strange because of the way it spread all over my body and turned my skin white. They maintained that my case was different because vitiligo is not known to spread fast over a short period. They assured me that vitiligo is not a communicable disease, but it is a disease that goes with stigma. The doctors told me to develop self-confidence to conquer it to lead a normal life.
“The doctors were equally worried as I was because I have no underlying health condition. That was how vitiligo turned my dark skin into white from head to toe. This discoloration that you are seeing on my face now is not my original dark-colored skin. It is sunburn. It was a result of my exposure to the sun. After the sunburn, I was advised to avoid the sun and heat by my doctors.