Problems Associated with Vitiligo

Vitiligo does not have any physical symptoms associated with the disorder such as pain. Some of the problems linked with Vitiligo are related to the danger sun damage poses in the areas without pigment, ocular disturbances and other autoimmune disorders. The autoimmune disorders include Addison’s disease, hyperthyroidism, alopecia areata, pernicious anemia and diabetes mellitus.

Sun Damage

Sun protection is very important to prevent premature aging and skin cancer. If you have Vitiligo you are especially susceptible in the areas without pigment. Almost 90% of non-melanoma and 65% of melanoma is related to UV radiation exposure from the sun. If you follow these tips you can help prevent damage to your skin:

  • Don’t burn and tan in UV tanning booths
  • Use a sunscreen with SPF of higher than 15
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside
  • Examine your skin and have a yearly examination by your doctor
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible

Over two million people are diagnosed every year with skin cancer making it the most common form of cancer in the US. The key to avoiding being diagnosed with skin cancer is to protect yourself at all times.

Eye Damage

Damage to the retina has been associated with some Vitiligo patients. In a study of 156 patients 40% of them exhibited different degrees of fundal pigment disturbance with pigment clumps, choroidal nevi, focal hypopigmented spots, iritis and iris transillumination. If you have been diagnosed with Vitiligo consult your eye doctor to determine if you have any ocular damage.

Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disorder resulting from the improper production of hormones in the adrenal glands. This is the result of damage to the adrenal cortex causing it to produce lower amount of the hormones. The damage is caused by the immune system attacking the gland or different types of infections. Addison’s disease can be treated with corticosteroids however the therapy is a life long treatment.


Hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid is when your thyroid starts making excessive amount of thyroid hormone. The thyroid is very important because it produces hormones that control how your cells in your body use energy in a process called metabolism. This can result in many different symptoms including:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Hair loss
  • Different skin conditions including blushing, flushing and excessive sweating
  • Sleeping disorder
  • Goiter

This condition can be treated with radioactive iodine, antithyroid medications and the removal of the thyroid.

Pernicious Anemia

Pernicious anemia results in a decrease of red blood cells when your intestines are not able to absorb vitamin B12 properly. The stomach stops absorbing B12 when it stops make a protein called intrinsic factor. Pernicious anemia is caused by an autoimmune condition and weakened stomach lining. Symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue and problem concentrating. A prolonged deficiency in vitamin B12 can result in depression, loss of balance and confusion. This condition can be treated with vitamin B12 therapy with full recovery.

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata affects your hair follicles resulting hair to fall out in small patches. Total hair loss is very rare but possible in some cases. Doctors do not know what causes alopecia areata but they do know it is an autoimmune disorder. It is very difficult to receive an accurate prognosis because the condition can go into remission returning all the hair loss but it can also come back. Treatments include topical, injectable and pill forms of corticosteroids, phototherapy and immunosuppressant medication with variable results.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes is a chronic condition with high glucose (sugar) levels in your blood. Insulin is produced by your pancreas to lower your blood glucose. When your pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin it causes diabetes. Diabetes complications cause disease of the blood vessels leading to damages in your heart, kidneys, eyes and other parts of your body. Diabetes can be controlled with the right medication, diet and exercise.

These are some of the problems associated with Vitiligo but because doctors do not know the exact cause of Vitiligo they can not say for certain if any of the above conditions can affect the disease.

If you have Vitiligo and you or any of your family members have any other autoimmune disorders inform your doctor. This type of information will eventually help doctors find the cause of Vitiligo so they will be able to find a cure.

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