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Though a majority of the study population could not identify the condition, certain groups- such as Arab-speaking participants- had a basic knowledge of and positive attitude toward vitiligo.
Despite a notable worldwide prevalence of vitiligo, research from a new global cross-sectional survey found that only 30% of the study population were able to identify the condition, and 66% and 88% of participants had an appropriate knowledge about and a positive attitude toward vitiligo, respectively.
“Misconception and misunderstandings concerning vitiligo have been reported to vary among Arabic, Asian, and African populations,” wrote leading study author Premjit Juntongjin, MD, from the Department of Dermatology at Chulabhorn International College of Medicine in Thailand. “This variation may be due to the differences in knowledge and attitudes among these entities, as well as differences in the surveying methods.”
For their study, Juntongjin and a team of investigators sought to determine the knowledge and attitudes regarding vitiligo in the general population among a variety of ethnic groups, utilizing a video demonstration of the condition.
To their knowledge, the survey included in the study was the first and only one that allowed participants to have direct visualization of vitiligo lesions prior to running the questionnaire.
Eligible participants were 18 years and older and able to comprehend Arabic, Chinese, English, or Thai. Those with vitiligo or closely related to patients with vitiligo were excluded to avoid bias. Participants self-reported as either Asians, Caucasians, Arabians, Africans, or “unknown”.
The questionnaire featured in the study was divided into 3 sections including personal information, knowledge (15 questions), and a question on attitude (8 questions). For the knowledge section, scored ranged between 0 and 15.
Participants were also asked to watch a 20-second video of a waitress with vitiligo serving a customer, with the last section of the video focusing in on the lesioned hands of the waitress. No words or sounds were used to describe the condition.
Following exposure to the video, participants were asked to complete the self-answer questionnaires, which took an average of 5 minutes.
A total of 405 participants were included in the analysis, with approximately two-thirds being men and nearly 50% Asian. Caucasians and Arabians represented 23% of the group, and the remaining participants were Africans. The mean age of the population was 42.1 years.
Overall, the knowledge score of all participants was 7.50±3.34, and a statistically significant different in scores was observed among different ethnicities; Arabians, for example, had the highest knowledge of vitiligo.
In addition to 30% of subjects being able to correctly name the condition, more than 80% of Arabian participants correctly identified the lesion.
Participants older than 60 years were less likely to identify vitiligo lesions (OR: 0.31, 95%CI:0.11-0.83) (P=0.02), while participants with family members in healthcare sectors were more likely to name the condition (OR 2.05; 95% CI 1.2-3.2) (P = 0.0002).
While a majority of Arabian participants had sufficient knowledge scores, roughly 40% of Asian participants had insufficient scores. Regardless, no statistically significant differences were observed.
Regarding attitudes, all participants had “moderate attitude” scores to daily activities such as physical contact and sharing food. Highest scores were observed for close relationships related to marital life and dating a person with vitiligo. Meanwhile, the lowest score was given to “to get married to (a person with vitiligo)”.
Among all participants, 88.6% had positive attitudes regarding skin discoloration, with Caucasians in particular having the highest number of participants with positive attitudes, followed by Arabs, Asians, and Africans (P=0.014).
"Cultural and religious differences may influence awareness and perceptions," the team wrote. "This study emphasizes on the need for public education to change mis conceptions regarding vitiligo."
The study, "Awareness of vitiligo among multi-ethnic populations," was published online in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.