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The Connection Shared by Vitiligo and Thyroid Autoimmune Diseases

medical illustration of the effects of vitiligo

A Closer Look on Vitiligo

According to this research published online, vitiligo is one of the top causes of acquired oral, skin, and hair depigmentation. It often appears as an inherited illness. It affects about 1% of the entire population.

Clinically, it’s described as the presence of distorting delineated skin macules that follow the destruction of melanocytes caused by auto-reactive cytotoxic T-lymphocytes.

Vitiligo is not a life-threatening disease but can potentially lead to skin cancer and other skin problems when the affected area is regularly exposed to UV light.

The Link Between Vitiligo and Thyroid Disorders

A group of experts discovered that there’s an apparent genetic link between vitiligo and certain autoimmune illnesses.

Specifically, the skin condition is highly connected to the following autoimmune diseases:

  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Pernicious Anemia
  • Psoriasis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Moreover, these experts acknowledged the predominance of autoimmune thyroid illness in about 14% in patients with vitiligo, and as these patients get older, their chances of acquiring autoimmune thyroid illness will increase.

According to the recent study posted in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, thyroid cancer, and autoimmune thyroid illnesses were significantly connected to vitiligo. The researchers utilized the Korean National Health Insurance claims data to learn about the relationship between vitiligo and thyroid cancer and other disorders.

The experts enrolled 73,336 patients with vitiligo, and 146,672 sex and age-matched controls. Vitiligo patients were more at risk for Graves’ Disease, Hashimoto thyroiditis, and thyroid cancer compared to the participants with controls.

The links were significantly stronger in men and younger people. The researchers revealed that one of the limits of the analysis was that the clinical information of each wasn’t accessible.

Kinds of Vitiligo

The different types of vitiligo can be further classified into two categories: localized and generalized.

Localized Vitiligo

  • Mucosal: The mucous membranes are the only ones affected.
  • Focal: It’s defined in one or more parts of pigment loss in an enclosed area.
  • Segmental: This kind of vitiligo is characterized by one or more areas of de-pigmentation on only one side of the person’s body. It’s more common in children. This kind is not linked with autoimmune disorders, including the thyroid.

Generalized Vitiligo

  • Universal: Nearly or full pigmentation loss on the body.
  • Vulgaris: It’s defined as having scattered patches that are distributed widely on the body.
  • Acrofacial: Pigmentation loss materializes on areas away from the midpoint of the body, such as the hands, feet, face, and head.
  • Mixed: It’s a combination of Vulgaris and Acrofacial, segmental and vulgaris, or segmental and acrofacial.

Hypothyroidism, Vitiligo, and Concurrent Treatment

According to research, hypothyroidism is the most common autoimmune illness linked with vitiligo. The report also covers the significance of screening for autoimmune disorders, and the importance of concurrent treatment in accomplishing ideal repigmentation.

A case was published of an 18-year-old woman with vitiligo accomplishing excellent repigmentation after getting thyroid replacement, oral corticosteroids, an oral anti-oxidant, and PUVA.

The relationship between vitiligo and hyperthyroidism was examined through the paper made by Colucci et al. It focused on dispersing autoantibodies against the thyroid hormones in patients with vitiligo. These autoantibodies are more abundant in vitiligo patients, which the experts suggest grants an inflammatory atmosphere, which results in the formation of vitiligo and thyroid autoimmune disorders.

You can read more about this theory here.

Can Vitiligo Cause Thyroid Cancer?

Vitiligo is a common skin condition, with a predominance that can reach 2.16% of the entire population. Increasing age and long-term illnesses are the leading factors that link many of the autoimmune disorders connected with vitiligo. However, autoimmune thyroid illnesses (Hashimoto, Graves, and AITD) are on top of the list.

The assumption that it may cause thyroid cancer to require further exploration. The misinterpretation can cause anxiety and panic among patients and parents.

It’s been known, but unfortunately repressed, that Hashimoto Thyroiditis progressing into thyroid lymphoma is rare. In an examination focused on 580 thyroidectomies, about 43 cases, which is around 7.4%, of incidental thyroid cancers were found, and they were particularly connected with moderate-to-severe lymphocytic thyroiditis.

As you can see, more analysis needs to be done before the relationship between vitiligo and thyroid cancer can be proven.

Moreover, the ratio of 1.127 for the chances of thyroid cancer in vitiligo patients is not alarming. Even though lymphocytic thyroiditis may be linked to thyroid lymphoma, the case is rare and can be incidental.

Conclusion

While there’s no solid evidence between vitiligo and thyroid cancer and other disorders, this skin condition can make a huge impact on a person’s life. It’s not life-threatening, but it can lead to skin cancer and other skin problems if it’s constantly exposed to UV light, and doesn’t get the proper treatment.

If you have vitiligo, it’s best you get to know more about this condition, visit a dermatologist to distinguish the best treatment for you, and join groups who have similar situations. This way, you can learn more about it from people who know exactly what you’re going through.

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