What is the association of vitiligo with autoimmune disease?
Vitiligo is more common in people with certain autoimmune diseases (diseases in which a person's immune system reacts against the body's own organs or tissues). Autoimmune diseases that are associated with vitiligo include: hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the thyroid gland), adrenocortical insufficiency (the adrenal gland does not produce enough of the hormone corticosteroid), alopecia areata (patches of baldness), and pernicious anemia (a low level of red blood cells caused by the failure of the body to absorb vitamin B12).
The basis for the association between vitiligo and these autoimmune diseases is not well understood. Moreover, the connection between them seems optional. Most people with vitiligo, fortunately, have no autoimmune disease such as hyperthyroidism, adrenocortical insufficiency, alopecia areata or pernicious anemia.
What is an autoimmune disorder?
An autoimmune disorder is any of a number of conditions in which a person's immune system reacts against the body's own organs or tissues, and the person's immune system produces antibodies to them. An autoimmune disorder is NOT an "immune deficiency". In the case of vitiligo, we believe that the immune system probably sees the person's own pigment cells as foreign bodies, and attacks them, destroying them or weakening them. Other examples of autoimmune disorders include thyroid disorders, alopecia areata, lupus, and pernicious anemia.