Vitiligo risk factors

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Alejandro Lemor, M.D. [2]


A family history of vitiligo is associated with an 18 fold increase in the risk and the early onset of the disease. The presence of autoimmune diseases in a patient is also considered a risk factor for developing vitiligo.

Risk Factors

Vitiligo is caused by a loss of skin melanocytes. Although the exact mechanism is not known, at least in some cases, an autoimmune process may play a role. [1][2] The fact that vitiligo is more prevalent in patients with certain autoimmune disorders, such as Addison's disease, hyperthyroidism, alopecia areata and pernicious anemia supports this hypothesis,[3][4][5] but it should also be recognized that the majority of patients with vitiligo do not have any autoimmune disorder.

Family History

There is an increased risk for developing vitiligo in patients with close relatives in whom the disease is present. The frequency of vitiligo in patients with a positive family history is up to 18 times more than someone with a negative family history. These patients also have an earlier onset of the disease. [6] [7]


  1. Gauthier Y, Cario Andre M, Taïeb A (2003). "A critical appraisal of vitiligo etiologic theories. Is melanocyte loss a melanocytorrhagy?". Pigment Cell Res. 16 (4): 322–32. PMID 12859615.
  2. Dell'anna ML, Picardo M (2006). "A review and a new hypothesis for non-immunological pathogenetic mechanisms in vitiligo". Pigment Cell Res. 19 (5): 406–11. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0749.2006.00333.x. PMID 16965269.
  3. Shahla Babaee Nejad, Hamideh Herizchi Qadim, Leila Nazeman, Roohollah Fadaii & Mohamad Goldust (2013). "Frequency of autoimmune diseases in those suffering from vitiligo in comparison with normal population". Pakistan journal of biological sciences: PJBS. 16 (12): 570–574. PMID 24494526. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  4. Daniel Holthausen Nunes & Ligia Maria Hademann Esser (2011). "Vitiligo epidemiological profile and the association with thyroid disease". Anais brasileiros de dermatologia. 86 (2): 241–248. PMID 21603806. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  5. Kirsty J. MacLean & Michael J. Tidman (2013). "Alopecia areata: more than skin deep". The Practitioner. 257 (1764): 29–32. PMID 24383154. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  6. Asem Alkhateeb, Pamela R. Fain, Anthony Thody, Dorothy C. Bennett & Richard A. Spritz (2003). "Epidemiology of vitiligo and associated autoimmune diseases in Caucasian probands and their families". Pigment cell research / sponsored by the European Society for Pigment Cell Research and the International Pigment Cell Society. 16 (3): 208–214. PMID 12753387. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  7. Greggory Laberge, Christina M. Mailloux, Katherine Gowan, Paulene Holland, Dorothy C. Bennett, Pamela R. Fain & Richard A. Spritz (2005). "Early disease onset and increased risk of other autoimmune diseases in familial generalized vitiligo". Pigment cell research / sponsored by the European Society for Pigment Cell Research and the International Pigment Cell Society. 18 (4): 300–305. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0749.2005.00242.x. PMID 16029422. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)

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