The study, “Association of multiple sclerosis with vitiligo: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” was published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
Vitiligo is a skin disease characterized by well-defined chalky white or depigmented macules and patches on the body. Genetic, immunologic and biochemical factors have been associated with vitiligo, but a definitive cause for the disease is not known.
Different types of autoimmune diseases may be related and share similarities. In fact, patients with inflammatory autoimmune diseases are at higher risk of developing additional auto-immune conditions. However, while some studies have reported an association between MS and vitiligo, others failed to confirm this association.
Researchers at the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, in Taiwan now investigated the possible association between MS and vitiligo through a systematic review and meta-analysis — examination of data from a number of independent studies in order to determine overall trends.
Through a systematic literature search, the team identified 285 relevant studies investigating the association of MS with the skin disorder. Of those, six case-control studies met the defined inclusion criteria. The number of participants in each study ranged from 101 to 5,296, in a total of 12,930 participants (mean age varied between 39 and 55.2 years), and all studies were conducted in Western countries.
One of six selected studies did not include cases of MS with vitiligo, so it was excluded from the final analysis, which comprised a total of five case-control studies with 12,829 MS patients and 31,231 controls.
The results did not support a significant association between MS and vitiligo.
“Analysis of the pooled data failed to display any increase of prevalent vitiligo in MS patients compared with controls,” the researchers wrote.
While there were discrepancies observed between the analyzed studies, researchers believe they may reflect various immunologic, environmental and genetic factors influencing the association between MS and the skin condition.
“Ethnic and genetic factors may play an important role for sporadically observed associations between MS and vitiligo,” the team wrote.
Researchers noted several limitations to their study’s findings. One was that the analyses included study participants from only Western countries, making data extrapolation to other ethnic groups impossible. Also, the data analyzed did not include the type of treatment patients were receiving, which could lead to bias in the results.
“In conclusion, the current evidence does not support an association of MS with prevalent vitiligo,” the team wrote. “To further explore the association, future national studies could provide more information about genetic and environmental influence on the association between MS and vitiligo.”
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