Vitiligo & Thyroid Disease

Vitilito Thyroid Disease Connection

One of the risk factors associated with autoimmune thyroid disease and not healing the immune system is secondary autoimmune conditions.  When the immune system loses tolerance… lack of self-tolerance – it can’t identify which cells belong to you from those cells that are pathogens, i.e. viral or bacterial cells. When I realized that I could possibly someday be diagnosed with autoimmune conditions beyond Hashimoto’s, celiac disease and pernicious anemia (which were ENOUGH) I felt afraid.  This motivated me into doing all that I could to modulate and heal my immune system.

What I’d like to share with you today is about a condition known as vitiligo.  You may or may not be familiar with it, yet.  It is one you will want to be aware of because vitiligo is an autoimmune condition.

And researchers have linked vitiligo to thyroid disease.

I didn’t know this until I started researching vitiligo but Michael Jackson suffered with the condition for many years and it is why he wore the awesome silver sequined glove to disguise the white spots due to lack of pigment on his hand.  Michael Jackson also had another autoimmune condition:  Lupus.

It’s very sad because it would have been nice if someone had had a conversation with Michael regarding the connection between his Lupus condition and vitiligo, and the importance of healing the gut and modulating his immune system.

Vitiligo and Thyroid Disease:  Camille’s Story

One of the main reasons I wanted to do this post is because of a note I received from Camille and I asked her if I could share her story.

** A True Story **

Camille’s story – Hashimoto’s & Vitiligo

One morning as I stepped out of the shower to dry off I noticed small white patches on my hands and arms.  At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me but upon further inspection, I noticed them in other areas of my body as well.  They seemed to have come out of nowhere and I assumed that perhaps I was dealing with some sort of topical fungal infection.

I finished my morning routine and decided to consult my virtual doctor, Dr. Google. 🙂

Not to toot my own horn but I am a skilled researcher and after some digging around on the internet, I came across information that matched my mysterious skin condition, and it had an exotic-sounding name.

“Vitiligo.”  This was a term I wasn’t familiar with and I began to wonder if this was yet another co-condition of Hashimoto’s which I had been struggling with for many years.

In Camille’s case and after reviewing the research I wondered which came first for her… Hashimoto’s or vitiligo since it can take many years for anti-thyroid antibodies to appear positive on a lab test.  Since the outward signs of vitiligo are obvious, I can see why Camille thought her vitiligo condition came after Hashimoto’s.

What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a condition in which white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body.  The cells (melanocytes) that produce pigment (color) in the skin are destroyed. Vitiligo can also affect the mucous membranes (like the tissues inside the mouth and nose) and the eyes.

Researcher’s don’t know what the exact cause is but believe the foundation for vitiligo happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the cells on the skin that produce pigment.  There may also be a genetic predisposition.

Sounds familiar, right?

What the Research Says

A study done by Gong et al. showed a link between Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and vitiligo and the possibility of crossover and “oxidative stress” between the two conditions.  Another study by Moradi et al. stated the link between vitiligo and thyroid disease has been proved in adult patients.  The researchers suggested children and adolescents diagnosed with vitiligo should be tested for thyroid antibodies as a screening tool.

Another study on the association between vitiligo and thyroid dysfunction found that patients with vitiligo had a much higher level of TPO antibodies as compared to the control group.  As with the first study previously mentioned, the researchers in this study found that vitiligo is usually followed by the onset of an autoimmune thyroid condition.  They also agreed that routine follow-up of vitiligo patients was important for screening for thyroid disease.

Symptoms of Vitiligo Thyroid

The white patches on skin described by Camille are the main signs and they are most prominent in areas that are exposed to the sun.  The white patches may show up on the hands, feet, arms, face and lips.  They may also be found in other areas:

  • Navel
  • Inside the nose
  • Eyes
  • Around the mouth
  • Genitals
  • Rectal area

Turning gray too early?  Apparently this is also a common symptom associated with vitiligo.

Vitiligo Thyroid Diagnosis & Treatment

Testing the skin by taking a small sample of the areas affected will need to be examined in addition to blood tests and an eye exam.

Your doctor will also ask if your hair turned gray before the age of 35, if any family members have vitiligo, if you have any other autoimmune diseases, if you’ve been under stress, if you are sensitive to the sun and more.

Ultraviolet light seems to be one of the primary treatments and depending on how much skin is affected by the white patches, grafting may be a possibility to improve the appearance of the skin, but neither will heal and correct the immune system.

What You Should Do

I really believe since the two conditions are so closely linked, if you’ve been diagnosed with either Hashimoto’s, (or Graves’) or vitiligo, that you should have regular screenings.

If you’ve been diagnosed with vitiligo be sure to ask your doctor to monitor you for autoimmune thyroid disease.

Read Next:

Thyroid Basics 101 – to know which lab tests to request from your doctor.


  1. Biswas, M., Chattopadhyay, A., Mridha, K., Biswas, T., & Hassan, S. (n.d.). A Study on association between Vitiligo and Thyroid … Retrieved May 30, 2016, from
  2. Gong, Q., Li, X., Gong, Q., Zhu, W., Song, G., & Lu, Y. (2016). Hashimoto’s thyroiditis could be secondary to vitiligo: The possibility of antigen crossover and oxidative stress between the two diseases. Archives of Dermatological Research Arch Dermatol Res, 308(4), 277-281. doi:10.1007/s00403-016-1641-z
  3. Moradi, S., & Ghafarpoor, G. (2008). Thyroid dysfunction and thyroid antibodies in Iranian patients with vitiligo. Indian Journal of Dermatology Indian J Dermatol, 53(1), 9. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.39733