Vitiligo and the increased risk of insulin resistance

Vitiligo and the increased risk of insulin resistanceVitiligo is associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance. Vitiligo is a disorder that results in discolored patches on the skin, hair, and mucus membrane. Roughly one to two percent of the population has vitiligo, and it is believed to be caused by genetic and environmental factors.

Insulin resistance is not only a risk factor for diabetes, but it can raise one’s risk of cardiovascular disease as well. Insulin resistance is when the body produces insulin but does not know how to properly use it. As a result, the insulin can enter the bloodstream, raising blood glucose levels and causing damage.


For the study, 96 individuals were involved: 57 had vitiligo and 39 were controls. Participants’ fasting blood samples were analyzed for fasting serum glucose and cholesterol.

The researchers found that vitiligo patients had higher incidences of insulin resistance, compared to controls with higher body mass index and greater waist circumferences. The researchers suggests that insulin resistance may be associated with other mechanisms related to vitiligo aside form body mass index and waist circumference, such as cytokines and autoimmune reactions. Additional research is required in order to determine the precise mechanisms behind the association.

Causes and triggers of vitiligo

Vitiligo occurs when the cells responsible for forming melanin – the pigment – start to die. Melanin is what gives our skin, hair, and even eyes their color, so when the pigment is no longer produced, the result is patches in lighter color or no pigment at all.

Although it is not completely understood why melanin-forming cells die, there are a few theories speculating about the possible causes:

  • Autoimmune disease when the immune system attacks the cells.
  • Family history of the condition.
  • Trigger event like a sunburn or chemical reaction.

Vitiligo may be triggered by specific occurrences, including stressful events like childbirth, damage to your skin such as a cut or severe burn, or exposure to certain chemicals which may occur at work. One thing is for sure, vitiligo is not caused by an infection and it is not contagious.

Related Reading:

Vitiligo may increase thyroid disease risk, new vitiligo treatment may help

Vitiligo may increase thyroid disease risk and a new vitiligo treatment may help improve the skin discoloration caused by the disorder. Results from a systematic review and meta-analysis found that thyroid disease is a common comorbidity in vitiligo patients. The authors noted that, “thyroid disease has been suggested to be associated with vitiligo… the outcomes of prevalence studies on thyroid disease in vitiligo vary widely.” Continue reading…


Vitiligo patients face dry eye syndrome, other eye health risks

Vitiligo patients face dry eye syndrome along with other eye health risks. Significant differences were seen in vitiligo patients who underwent the Schirmer test, which determines if the eye produces enough tears for proper moisture. Continue reading…


Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.