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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Vitamin D deficiency prevalent in autoimmune skin disorder

Researchers in Egypt report a link between vitamin D deficiency and vitiligo, an autoimmune skin disease characterized by loss of pigmentation (brown color) from areas of the skin.

Vitiligo may appear at any age, affecting about 1 out of every 100 people in the United States. Vitiligo is often associated with existing autoimmune conditions including lupus, type 1 diabetes, hypo and hyperthyroidism, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Hanan M Saleh and colleagues at the Department of Dermatology and Venereology in Cairo set out to evaluate vitamin D status in vitiligo patients with and without systemic autoimmune diseases.

The researchers conducted a case-control study, randomly selecting 40 vitiligo patients; 20 with systemic autoimmune disease, 20 without autoimmune disease. The authors included 40 age, gender, and skin type matched control participants.

After assessment of 25(OH)D status, physical examination, and medical history, the authors found:

  • No statistical difference between age, gender, skin type, or reported vitamin D intake.
  • There was a highly statistical significance between occupations of the vitiligo vs control groups. Eighty-seven percent of control participants worked outdoors.
  • There was a significant difference between both groups regarding duration of vitiligo (p=0.008). Participants with vitiligo, without autoimmune disease had the disease for an average of 5.5 years compared to 2 years for those with vitiligo and autoimmune disease.
  • 97.5% of vitiligo participants were vitamin D deficient, while only 12.5% of controls were deficient (p=0.0001).
  • There was no statistical difference between vitamin D status of patients with vitiligo and autoimmune diseases (group 1) and patients without autoimmune diseases (group 2), although slightly lower levels were found in group 1.

The authors conclude,

“The key question is whether low 25(OH)D levels in vitiligo patients confer greater risk of developing secondary autoimmunity or autoimmune inflammatory processes consumes excess vitamin D…Whether low 25(OH)D levels are the consequence or the cause of autoimmune disease, 25(OH)D screening may be a worthwhile screen for vitamin D deficiency and hence vitamin D supplementation to control autoimmunity. Given its relative safety in conjunction with its beneficial immunomodulatory effects, there is optimism that correcting vitamin D deficiency will lead to better outcomes for vitiligo patients.”

The authors recognize several limitations of the study, including the failure to match occupation of patients and controls, which could explain the significant difference between vitamin D blood levels between the two groups. The researchers call for future trials with larger sample size and matching patients and controls with similar sun exposure habits.


Saleh HMA, Abdel Fattah NSA, Hamza HMM. Evaluation of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in vitiligo patients with and without autoimmune diseases. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine. Feb 2013.

  About: Kate Saley

Kate was the Community Coordinator for the Vitamin D Council between 2012-2013. She oversaw the Council’s social media, blog, newsletter and membership base. Kate is currently going to school for occupational therapy.

9 Responses to Vitamin D deficiency prevalent in autoimmune skin disorder

  1. Kate Saley says:

    Thanks for the additional info Rita! The second link seems to be “private.” Let us know if you find the article somewhere else.

  2. pollykocher says:

    a little story about my son, born in 1990 who has vitiligo. at age 5, he had dozens of flat tiny black dots on his body–trunk primarily–and after a family vacation to sunny florida (from Illinois) those black dots all developed a white halo, which i assumed were vitiligo. over time they faded and now there is no evidence of them. He does however have big patches of vitiligo over both knees. I always thought i should tell ‘someone’ about this…as his doctors just shrug…anyone have any insight…

  3. k2pdj@earthlink.net says:

    I have been told at age 21 that I had neuro dermatitis and the doc said, “what is bothering you”? So, for 44 years I suffered, cracked and bleeding skin on hands during the winter and itching during the summer. Seemed to go away in summer! Strange? Moisture? But it got worse in September ( I live in NY state). The moisture did not change in September. Confusing! So started vitamin D and at 2,000 a day it went away and never came back! It is now eight years later and still no problem! Anecdotal evidence….sure. Works for me!

  4. clubtan says:

    I have a client who uses the tanning bed to slow the progression of his vitiligo 😉

  5. Kate Saley says:

    k2pdj that’s great news. Have you told your doctor about your experience? Also, how long were you supplementing before you saw an improvement?



  6. Update: large doses of Vitamin D given to Vitiligo patients in Brazil
    Decreased vitiligo on most of the 16 patients. Full details at

  7. IAW says:

    We are always complaining here, at the VDC blog, that the researchers are using such small amounts of Vitamin D3 in their studies.

    Well Henry (VitaminDWiki above) gave the link above to a study in which “Nine patients with psoriasis and 16 patients with vitiligo received vitamin D3 35,000 IU once daily for six months in association with a low-calcium diet (avoiding dairy products and calcium-enriched foods like oat, rice or soya “milk”) and hydration (minimum 2.5 L daily).”

    To read the outcome please see Henry’s link above or http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24494059

  8. Rita and Misty says:

    IAW~I absolutely love the VDC–this cyberspace creation, and those who helped develop it are all geniuses–in my opinion.

    The Vitamin D Council online community is amazing…where else may we gather to chat, to debate, to brainstorm and to deliberate, if not here? I enjoy these discussion so very much.

    If I ever complain about the low doses used in studies and trials, I am sorry, IAW. Actually, it isn’t the dose that matters at all.

    The only thing that matters is a person’s vitamin D blood level. And I hope I am alive to see the day when trials use an optimal vitamin D blood level as a gauge.