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Mary Shomon

Researchers Find Genetic Connection Between Vitiligo, Thyroid Disease, and Other Autoimmune Diseases

By April 10, 2007

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Researchers reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine have reported that there is a genetic connection between the skin condition vitiligo, and other autoimmune diseases, including autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease.

Vitiligo is a chronic autoimmune disease involving white patches of pigmentless skin on various parts of the body.

The researchers found that vitiligo was highly associated with other autoimmune diseases, including thyroid disease, pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, lupus, Addison's disease, and adult-onset autoimmune diabetes. The researchers then were able to identify a particular gene that makes people more suspectible to vitligo and other autoimmune diseases, particularly autoimmune thyroid disease.

The study is discussed in depth in the March 22, 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, and more information on vitiligo is available at the About.com site on skin disorders.

Source: Jin, Ying M.D., Ph.D., et. al. "NALP1 in Vitiligo-Associated Multiple Autoimmune Disease," NEJM, Volume 356:1216-1225, March 22, 2007 Number 12, Online abstract

April 13, 2007 at 8:54 am
(1) Linda Horton says:

That is so interesting – I have vitiligo and Hashimoto’s and always wondered if there was a connection. I am also a diabetic but because I had to have most of my pancreas removed.

April 17, 2007 at 1:34 pm
(2) rhada thomas says:

I had my thyroid removes amd ever since i have been fatigue pain in my joints and muscle no period for 4 years not due to illness pain in my abdoninal area and shortness of breath .

April 18, 2007 at 2:44 pm
(3) Denise R. says:

My mom has vitiligo & graves, her sister had vitiligo, a goiter & type 2 diabetes. Thanks for this information. It sure demonstrates how things are so interconnected & yet our health care system is going more & more into specialization! No wonder so many of us struggle to get the care we need.

July 16, 2008 at 3:26 pm
(4) Denise Challenger says:

my 50 year old sister has Graves Disease,Rheumatoid A, and is now being tested for Addison’s. My 47 year old sister has advanced Lupus. I am 56 and have Osteo due to the wear and tear of my life, i am virtually healthy compared to them, why?

August 3, 2008 at 6:27 am
(5) Feruza says:

I do have thyroid but so scared to go to hospital, doctors told me if I remove thyroid I might die.
I have some skin disorder as well, the info is so great, thanks a lot. I am sure it will help all the people with problems

November 3, 2011 at 1:45 am
(6) Beckie Decker says:

I just had my Thyroid Removed. I am not sure where you are located, but death from Thyroid removal would be extremely rare and I would question the surgeons ability. I had a FANTASTIC young female surgeon remove my thyroid due to severe hashimoto thyroiditis. I have also had Vitiligo since I was about 5 yrs old. I will be tested for Addison’s disease in December. So far my testing for other Autoimmune diseases have been negative. I am still awaiting the results of the pathology of my thyroid and the 2 lymph nodes that were removed. I was severely hypothryroid, but with medication, I am almost normal now. I have (in the last 2 generations) a few family members who also have Vitiligo. I guess my point is…if your thyroid NEEDS removed, find a GREAT Surgeon, like I did, and get it done!!

September 1, 2008 at 6:44 pm
(7) Kara says:

I am 31 years old and had vitiligo and “rheumatism” as a young child. The syptoms seemed to disappear as I got older, but then resurfaced with my first pregnancy at age 26. Any connection? Now, as I research I seem to suffer from symptoms of thyroid disease, mildly. What are the chances of finding one doctor to treat it all, preferrably with alternative methods?????

September 9, 2008 at 8:45 pm
(8) Grace says:

My daughter (age 12) has Graves Disease, Vitiligo and Type 1 Diabetes so I find this interesting. This is a lot for one little girl to cope with. I pray for a cure for each of these diseases…

October 26, 2008 at 8:46 pm
(9) Aubrey says:

I Have vitiligo on most of my body. I am also severely anemic but no one has ever once told me if they are related. Ive had it since birth. Should I go and tell them to test me for other things?

December 3, 2008 at 3:17 pm
(10) concerned says:

To: rhada thomas
I know this was an old post, but just in case you are still having problems…

If you had your thyroid gland removed, you probably had your parathyroid removed too. These two glands are highly involved in regulating your metabolism and calcium levels. Are you on a synthetic thyroid hormone like synthroid? You may want to ask your doctor to measure your hormone and calcium levels, the joint pain and muscle pain might be related.

December 10, 2008 at 1:16 am
(11) Amanda says:

I have had vitiligo all my life and NO ONE knew what it was or anything about it i suffered from eye problems and anemia as well and now i’m having thyroid problems this is insane i found out more in one place about than anywhere else in 20 years thank you so much!!!

April 20, 2009 at 9:33 pm
(12) Sue Y says:

My sister and I were both born with vitiligo. She has Graves but I dont have anything other than the Vit. Not too many born with it that I am aware of.

November 12, 2009 at 9:30 am
(13) Josephine C. says:

I was reading Linda’s comment, I too have increased Vitiligo and recent diagnosed Hashimoto disease and have a growth in my thyroid. I was wondering what was going on in my system to cause the Vitiligo. I’m searching for cures.

February 21, 2010 at 11:47 pm
(14) Jay Fields says:

I have had thyroid disease for 20 years now and i have now moved into vitiligo, the skin discoloration only appears in my groin area but itches terribly. I read about asorbic acid having a affect with this, are there any correlations ?

August 25, 2010 at 7:09 pm
(15) tanmei says:

this explains so much! I have vitiligo and hyperthyroidism…!

October 10, 2010 at 7:19 pm
(16) Bryant B says:

I have been diagnosed with Vit so far and going for a test in Nov for thyroid problems, I have also been diagnosed with proteinuria which is related to my immune system which is related to Lupus. I believe that the entire Endocrine and Lymphatic system are connected to these areas. I like to do things naturally so I will try and help the Lupus and the proteinuria and maybe it will stable out. I have had the vit after I got back from the Persian gulf war after being vaccinated with their Anthrax and Botulism vaccines along with taking nerve agent PB pills. I am so grateful to have had no real serious health problems beside the psychological affects of looking at the vit. May God bless the scientist to find a cure for our conditions.

November 3, 2010 at 8:53 pm
(17) jaxwife says:

I also have Hashimotos disease and Vitiligo. It’s all starting to make sense.

December 12, 2010 at 7:04 pm
(18) Christine says:


January 24, 2011 at 3:05 pm
(19) Larry says:

My vitiligo started at 37 yrs old and it has not stopped spreading. Now at 40 I found out that I have Hashimoto’s disease. Just started taking medicine for it two day’s ago and feel great. I just hope this will stopped the spread of vitiligo. I have a dark completion and the white patches are beginning to have a mental effect at least until I started the new meds, now I really don’t care about the vitiligo until i look in the mirror. Life is crazy!!!

March 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm
(20) Jessica says:

I am 33 years old and 25 weeks pregnant. Found out that I had hyperthyroid during my first trimester and went hypothyroid during my second trimester. Just got a new endocrinologist and it is all making sense now. I now have to get new blood labs to check more into graves disease, see where my thyroid situation is and i’m not having any serious symptoms besides the racing heart on occasion.

What I didn’t realize is my vitiligo (since the 9th grade that I diagnosed myself, that has spread/”worsened”) is related to the thyroid issue and in turn can be connected to graves disease (if I am diagnosed with it don’t know yet). Since my mother has lupus (diagnosed in her 30′s and now in her 50′s) I am assuming I should have been checked as a child a long time ago.

All the docs I have seen passed me up from what I am guessing is lack of knowledge, gave me ointment that should have brought pigment back but only burnt my skin, or said that it isn’t life threatening and there isn’t anything that can be done.

As I am collaborating my story in a nut shell all of the puzzle pieces are falling together finally after 20 years of curiosity and wondering. I never realized what could unfold from the vitiligo or lack of information out there.

August 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm
(21) pip moore says:

have had vitiligo since a bad relationship break up when I was 28, it started down my shins then spread to pressure points…anywhere that got rubbed or chafed like elbows, underarms top of feet and even where my pendants rubbed just below my neck…I look odd and try to wear sunscreen so the difference isnt so apparent..summer is my worse time. My GP had no idea what i was talking about when i went to see him in the early 00s so I just thanked my stars it only seemed to be superficial and that I wasnt a self conscious teen..now I am starting to wonder if there was something someone could have prescribed me and I am angry.

September 20, 2011 at 10:52 am
(22) abhi says:

Dear pip, autoimmune disorders can be related or precipitated with stressful events in life, i would suggest you try alternative therapy like homoeopathy as there is scope of improvement in cases with stress as precipitating factors.

August 29, 2011 at 12:37 am
(23) Rose says:

I was just diagnos with Hashimoto and i have vitiligo. I want to know if medication for Hashimoto will help stop the growth of vitiligo or help skin color return.

September 21, 2011 at 7:18 am
(24) Irene says:

Rose, Hashimoto medication (January 2011) didn’t make any difference to my vitilago, but ~4 years ago after I had become very ill and removed myself from a very stressful job (in a chemical environment) my pigmentation started to return within 3 months. I was extremely sensitive to the smell of the environment. This baffled my GP and Dermatologist. It continues to improve and still baffles the doctors. One factor when I became ill was a very low Vitamin D level (14) and I was put on Ostelin. Recommended Vit D levels are ~80+ I believe. I take heaps of other supplements also. I also eat and use mostly organics ie shampoos, moisturisers – everything I possibly can. Perhaps this helped.

October 19, 2011 at 3:27 pm
(25) Michelle says:

I have Vitiligo and in the last few days my family Doctor thinks I have Graves ( I’ve done some testing). I’ve had vitiligo since about 9 years old (now 31). I am going to see the endocrinologist on Wednesday 10/26/11. Autoimmune diseases run in my family. My sister has Crohn’s, my Aunt has a little vitiligo ( she just found out at 50), and some cousins have autoimmune diseases. This is very interesting. I used too have a ton of blotches all over, but they have faded or most of my skin has lost pigment. So I just look really Irish ( I am so that is ok). My hair has grayed, my eyebrows are gray ( not all the hair), and my eye lashes too ( not all). Good thing for makeup :) …… good luck everyone…

October 29, 2011 at 12:58 am
(26) Myles says:

I have had the same vitiligo spots on my face for 20+ years and 5 years ago was diagnosed with Hashimotos disease after several visits to my GP. My thyroid has been a constant area of concern for me – but It wasnt until an extremely stressful event at WORK last year that my Vitiligo spots have increased to all parts of my body.

So after reading Irene’s comment above… I have a sinking feeling that i might need to quit my stressful job. I am also going to check into that vitamin D option.

I pray that more voices speak up and help increase research and cures for these disorders that some health insurance companies deem as “cosmetic”

November 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm
(27) John says:

I have had vitiligo for about 6 years and athritis in my toe joints for around same time it was also at that time had big probs with relationships etc. Mum and her dad had huge probs with athritis. I have been off work with stress for 5 months also had probs with my eyes recently and it was optician said about checking my thyroid. So I said to doc can we check these bloods again as had 2 irregulars 4 mths ago. Low and behold he says I have loads of anti bodies attacking my thyroid. I am male of 52, he says will have to monitor but reading so much online not sure where I am..

November 29, 2011 at 1:52 am
(28) Irene says:

Hi, my recent blood tests also showed raging antibodies – not sure how to control this but diet seems to be mentioned. If anyone has ideas would be great to hear from you. I also changed to blood type diet ~2 weeks ago. Hard at first because I’m ‘O’ and don’t like meat very much and love cheese/yogurt/diary, but am trying. Must admit I feel better, less bloated. I’ve looked at the highly beneficial foods and try to eat those regularly, then look at the AVOID and make sure I leave them off the menu as often as possible. If you want quality in life, you just have to keep trying these things. Some of us are very sensitive to chemicals etc. I think of it as a career !!

December 14, 2011 at 9:57 am
(29) Javier says:

I have had Vitiligo since puberty, started in my groin area and very slowly spreading into my hands and face. In my twenties it started spreading a little more to underarms, elbows, wrists, and ankles.

I’m now 42 and just diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, although there was some indication because I had been taking Synthroid for the last 5 years due to low thyroid levels. Now that I’m reading this some things make more sense, like my dry skin and dry eyes.

I have given up on a cure to Vitiligo, but I am still in hopes to find something that would slow the antibodies that kill healthy human cells.

February 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm
(30) marti says:

Yes, I too have had vitaligo since puberty and had a goiter. Have been on medication since. During my child bearing years my vitaligo went crazy then slowed down. When I went through menapause vitaligo finished all my skin tone to white and at same time my goiter went away. I was told I will be on medication the rest of my life. I wasn’t told about the connection until my forties. I am now 59 and see there are so many like myself.

March 1, 2012 at 12:52 am
(31) Irene says:

I have just been told I am allergic to “latext: in food. Gosh, I didn’t know anything like this existed. Wonder if anyone else has this problem, along with the autoimmune/vitilago/hashimoto. Or maybe, it’s one to watch out for. Briefly, in the last year or so, I developed an unbearable itch (occasionally) on my arms – nowhere else. Seems like this is common at this age (~60+). I had a bad attack earlier this week on my right arm and fortunately the next day I had to see my dermatologist for my yearly followup on vitilago etc. He was very interested and is sending my for blood tests. There were many possibilities, but also told me to check website for “latext – foods” because I became allergic to rubber (SBR) in the environment (through work) around 2000. Will keep you posted when I have these tests if anything shows up.

September 22, 2012 at 2:26 am
(32) KD says:

I am 46 and got diabetes when i was 5, hypothyroidism when i was 27 and just got vitiligo within the last few years……and vitiligo is the worse of them all in my opinion, no control of the disfigurement of your skin color……All the diseases in the world, all the scientists working towards a cure, all the money for research…..and we still have yet to find any cures….Makes one wonder.

September 25, 2012 at 11:52 pm
(33) jsthomas says:

I have Hashimoto’s, Vitiligo, and severe Anemia (although, they never diagnosed it as pernicious anemia). I am also showing some of the symptoms of Latent Autoimmune Type 1 Diabetes. I have also had Iritis (another autoimmune disorder) in the past. And have had recurring problems with canker sores (also related to autoimmune). Just wondering how many autoimmune-related disorders I can develop? When will it stop? When will my body stop attacking itself?

October 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm
(34) Lou says:

I have been reading about a definite connection between gluten intolerance and vitiligo. Please search articles for this connection. I believe it is the key to hypothyroidism and vitiligo. I believe the antibodies could be caused by gluten. Also, I read that excess amounts of H202 in the system causes vitiligo and is elminated via catalase (which is found in pineapple enzymes and baked potatoes).

October 30, 2012 at 2:08 am
(35) Irene says:

I recently went to see a new Holistic GP for advice on supplement use. I have high antibodies due to autoimmune (Vitilago & Hashimoto – as per my notes above) and was advised by a skin specialist to take antioxidants, but he wouldn’t suggest which ones were suitable. The Holistic GP suggested
“Deluxe Scavengers” which cost ~$92 for 180 tabs. I started this past week so will see down the track if blood tests show an improvement – will keep everyone posted. The New Zealand company supplying these are found on http://www.fxmed.co.nz

I’m doing everything possible not to come down with any further diagnosis !

November 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm
(36) Tania says:

I’m 42, have never been able to fall pregnant and have had vitiligo since my early teens. A gynecologist appointment highlighted an enlarged thyroid 2 weeks ago. I am now mid investigation, biopsy next to confirm Hashimoto’s or cancer.

I’m reeling. The more I dig the more connections I find.

February 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm
(37) Claudine says:

I suffer from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Vitiligo & Addisons disease which are all autoimmune. My father had Addisons as well, so I definitely know there’s a genetic connection. One of the many symptoms of Addisons disease is electrolyte imbalance. After being prescribed meds for my eletrolyte imbalance and starting a regime of taking ginko biloba supplements, as well as a cream prescribed by my dermotoligist for vitiligo (Elidel), my vitiligo is well under control. Almost all the patches on my face, ears & neck have been repigmented. I just have one persistent patch on my left eyelid, but nothing makeup can’t cover. The patches on my back have not grown either. Most have either repigmented or shrank in size.
I know how devestating and depressing it is to have vitiligo on exposed parts of your body, especially the face, but not anymore! I suggest those who also suffer from vitiligo take ginko biloba, keep your stress levels low, use Elidel cream if you can get it and make sure your electrolytes are imbalanced. (there are studies on how ginko biloba helps with vitiigo)

March 13, 2013 at 11:16 pm
(38) John says:

To Claudine:

What was the medication prescribed for your electrolyte imbalance and your dose for ginko biloba? Thank you.

April 12, 2013 at 3:24 pm
(39) Louise says:

I’m just sixty and have had vitiligo since the third grade. I am totally white now. When I was about 28 I developed pernicious anemia. Then around age 50 I got type 1 diabetes, few years later hypothyroidism, 4 years ago breast cancer, now I might have MS. I go in for a MRI tomorrow. Have lots of muscle fatigue,general fatigue and trouble walking with my left leg. Just keep getting more autoimmune diseases over the years starting with the vitiligo. Very deprressing with getting more & more of these diseases. I seem to be getting them all.

May 23, 2013 at 8:32 pm
(40) Hanginthere says:

Interesting discovery!! I am 39yo and started developing vitiligo about four years ago. Started with one small patch on my leg and progressively spread all over, including my entire face. I used to have a nice healthy glow, now I have the complexion of a vampire…lol. It seemed like from the time I noticed that small patch on my leg, my body just began to fall apart. Lost most of my hair, and the small bit of thin hair that remains is white and patchy. Not long after I began to notice other strange changes like joint pain, weight gain, sensitivity to light, headaches, and extreme fatigue, to the point that I just wanted to sleep most of the time. Went to the doctor a few times as these symptoms manifested themselves but felt a bit like a hypochondriac and it was difficult to articulate what I was feeling, just knew that something wasn’t right, and I felt to young to be feeling this way. Fortunately, he sent me for a blood test that indicated above average TSH, and a subsequent test indicated quite high hashimotos antibody count. Have been taking syntheroid for a month now, and hoping things will get better.

June 3, 2013 at 9:45 pm
(41) danish says:

google ray peat. his hashi recovery plan is the ONLY things that basically cured me. :)

June 10, 2013 at 3:46 pm
(42) Larry says:

I have graves disease. And had radioactive pill to kill my thyroid. I am taking synthroid to balance my thyroid hormone and I have these patches on my face and hands. I can’t understand why unroll I found this article. Thanks now it is clear why I have this condition. Now is there a treatment for this so I can feel more comfortable being out and about without Deakin people out!

June 11, 2013 at 7:28 am
(43) cellulean in stores says:

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July 13, 2013 at 4:34 am
(44) September says:

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s when I was about 3 years old and my vitiligo didn’t start appearing until I was 2. I knew that they both had a connection..I’m 14 now and vitiligo covers about 75% of my body.

September 19, 2013 at 10:18 pm
(45) Cynthia says:

I have Hashimoto’s & Vitiligo at 38. My dad’s side Lupus, Type 1 & 2 Diabetes, Graves, Breast Cancer Goiters, I take after my dad. Yes, Genes! I have been doing extensive research and “Gluten” is a big contributor. Gluten triggers an auto-immune response attacking the thyroid. All autoimmune diseases are caused from a “Leaky Gut”, The foods you eat get into your blood stream and your body starts attacking. Zinc Picolinate & Selenium tighten the strands of your intestines. Vitiligo is caused by a production of too much Hydrogen Peroxide. I’ve read through all the comments ~Please read “The Root Cause” by: Isabella Wentz. Amazon. She cured her Hashimoto’s. Google Cyrex Labs for lab tests to identify triggers. Everyone is different: we live in a toxic civilization: Eat Organic, Fresh, Veggies & Protein. Drink pure water, meditate, remove as much Toxins/chemicials out of your home. Check your Vitamin levels especially D and B12. I was very low on both. My TPO-Antibodies were at 750 now down to 112 still working on it. Removing 40 year old metal fillings from my mouth next, and then Chelation therapy for Mercury toxins. There is a war going on within your body. Read the book gives you step-by-step strategies to overcome the war within your body..it can be done! Be persistent! Don’t give up. Good Luck!

December 30, 2013 at 4:45 pm
(46) BG says:

I have had Hashimoto’s for 13 years. Diagnosed after the birth of my first child. 10 years later, I got my one and only vitiligo spot. Met a man who had vitiligo over 60% of his body. He told me his grandfather, his father and himself all started with Hashimoto’s, then vitiligo, and then diabetes. In that order. This scared me into doing more research. A nutritionist at Pharmaca suggested I read “Dangerous Grains.” This book also says that Gluten is a huge trigger for the auto-immines. I thought I had nothing to lose by trying gluten free. I have been gluten free for 18 months and off my Hashimoto meds for 6 months!! I actually went hyper for about two months around the 11 month mark because my body was adjusting. So great to be off meds. My vitiligo spot has been re-pigmenting, but is not complete yet. I would say it re-pigmented about 40% so far.
Oh, and I also am a huge proponent of D3. I take 4-6000 IU a day (when I remember). When my kids get sick, I up their D3 and it knocks out a cold in one day.
For the person using Elidel. Be careful. That is a black label drug and is really toxic.

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