About 400,000 people in Britain have disfigurements to their face, hands or body. These include birthmarks, scars, asymmetrical features, paralysis, skin grafts and conditions affecting the skin (such as psoriasis, vitiligo, acne, EB, Ichthyosis, and Neurofibromatosis). Disfigurement can be present at birth like a cleft lip and palate or caused by an accident, fire, cancer treatment, disease or illness.
Surgical and medical treatment depends on the disfigurement/condition. Surgery /treatment can make a disfigurement less noticeable, but it can rarely be removed altogether. Indeed many conditions that affect appearance do not recede or disappear. Some skin conditions be unpredictable or fluctuate. This can be very distressing and hard to accept.
Psychological and social effects
Children, young people and adults who have a medical condition that affects their appearance may be treated unfairly and experience a number of common challenges socially. Whatever the underlying cause of the visual difference, individuals may be stared at, asked questions by strangers, called names, be bullied or rejected. This may happen at school, work or in other public places such as the pub or shops. Such reactions can lead to low self-esteem, lack of confidence, difficulty meeting new people and forming intimate relationships.
Activities that involve exposing ones body (e.g. swimming, sports, wearing summer clothes) can also add further to feeling self-conscious about appearance. In some instances social isolation may occur if adults or parents and their children start to avoid social situations for fear of what they entail and how others will react. Where skin conditions are concerned, there are also many existing myths in our society ? that the condition is contagious or caused by poor hygiene or diet for example.
Individual's ability to adjust and cope with the visual difference in their appearance is not predicted by severity, location or cause of the condition. Research has demonstrated people cope best when they have good quality support networks, a high level of self-esteem and good social (interaction) skills.
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