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25-02-2010 | Dermatology | Article

Vitiligo linked to high frequency of autoimmune, audiologic abnormalities


Free abstract

MedWire News: Patients with vitiligo have a high prevalence of other autoimmune disorders and hearing problems, show results from a Turkish study.

“Recent clinical studies suggest that the pathogenetic mechanisms of vitiligo could be of systemic origin as vitiligo is associated with auditory abnormalities as well as other autoimmune disorders,” say researchers.

In this study, Bengu Akay (University of Ankara School of Medicine) and colleagues investigated the clinical phenotype of 80 Turkish patients with vitiligo to try and gain a better idea of the clinical and epidemiological profile of the condition in Turkey.

The mean age of the participants was 37 years with an average age at vitiligo onset of 10 years. The most common form of the condition observed was vitiligo vulgaris, followed by focal, acrofacial, segmental, and universal forms of the condition.

As reported in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, the team found that associated autoimmune diseases were present in 55% (44 patients) of the population. These included cases of Hashimoto thyroiditis, alopecia areata, pernicious anaemia, and diabetes mellitus.

Hearing problems were also common and present in 37.7% (20 patients) of the group. Of these, nine had unilateral minimal hearing loss (above 30 dB) and 11 had bilateral hearing loss (above 30 dB) over a wide range of frequencies from 2000 to 8000 Hz.

Of note, the researchers also report significant changes in human leukocyte antigens A24, A30, B63, CW6, DR15, DR51, DQ5, and DQ6.

“Our results confirmed previous evidence of association between vitiligo and other autoimmune disorders,” conclude Akay et al. “The most frequent vitiligo-associated disorder was autoimmune thyroid disease, mainly Hashimoto thyroiditis.”

They say: “As vitiligo affects all active melanocytes, auditory problems can result in patients with vitiligo.”

The authors suggest: “Even if most of the patients with vitiligo are usually asymptomatic in hearing, the clinician must keep in mind that these patients may represent hypoacusis in audiologic tests; therefore, we recommend audiologic tests in all patients with vitiligo.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Helen Albert