Background Nonsegmental vitiligo is considered to be an autoimmune disease and is known to be associated with other autoimmune diseases, particularly affecting the thyroid. Screening patients with nonsegmental vitiligo for thyroid function and for the presence of thyroid autoantibodies has been recommended.
Objective To investigate the prevalence of thyroid dysfunction and thyroid peroxidase-specific (TPO) antibodies in a large cohort of patients with nonsegmental vitiligo in order to help decide whether routine screening is justified.
Methods A total of 434 adults with nonsegmental vitiligo who were referred to our institute were enrolled. Thyroid function and anti-TPO antibody titres were assessed in those patients who had no history of thyroid disease or recent thyroid screening.
Results Forty-three patients had already been diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction, and in 27 patients the general practitioner had performed a thyroid function test with negative results < 3 months previously. In these patients, thyroid function assessment was not repeated. The remaining 364 patients were screened for thyroid dysfunction. Overt hypothyroidism was newly diagnosed in three (0·8%) patients; subclinical disease was found in 10 (2·7%) patients and increased levels of TPO antibodies, without thyroid disease, were found in 49 (13·5%) patients. An elevated risk for thyroid disease was found among older women and in women with a positive family history of thyroid disease.
Conclusion The overall prevalence of thyroid dysfunction in adult patients with nonsegmental vitiligo was higher than reported in the general population. However, the number of newly diagnosed cases with overt and subclinical thyroid dysfunction in our population was low. Most patients had already been diagnosed by their general practitioner and had symptoms indicative for thyroid disease. Thyroid disease was found predominantly among older women and in subjects with a positive family history of thyroid disease. Thyroid screening including anti-TPO antibodies is advisable in these high-risk subpopulations.