Vitiligo can lead to hearing loss and ocular abnormalities: Study
Egypt: Vitiligo represents a systemic disease that can be linked with impairment of melanocyte function organs other than the skin, including the eyes and ears, according to findings from a recent case-control study. The findings of the study are published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology.
"Because of an association of function of auditory melanocytes with the hearing process, their destruction could result in hearing impairment. No direct role of ocular melanocytes in the detection or transfer of visual information was revealed, therefore, these should not impact vision. Vitiligo may be related to ocular abnormalities as well as hearing loss," wrote the authors.
Prior to this study, it was known that vitiligo is characterized by the destruction of functional melanocytes in the skin. This destruction can target melanocytes anywhere in the body, in turn affecting the function of the organs in which the affected melanocytes reside. Melanocytes in the skin, uveal tract, and ear are similar in their physiology and morphology and share a common embryological origin.
Rasha Genedy, Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University, Alexandria, Egypt, and colleagues aimed to study the association of vitiligo with ocular and auditory abnormalities.
The researchers carried out this case-control study on 40 patients with vitiligo and 20 healthy controls (HCs). All patients and HCs underwent auditory examination (otoscopic examination and immittance audiometry to assess middle ear pressure and exclude tympanic membrane perforation; pure tone audiometry to assess peripheral hearing sensitivity; and transient evoked otoacoustic emissions to assess central hearing ability) and standard ocular examination including visual acuity test, slit-lamp biomicroscopy, and optical coherence tomography.
The researchers found that compared with controls, there was a significantly higher prevalence of hearing loss and ocular abnormalities in patients with vitiligo but no significant difference in visual acuity.
"Vitiligo is a systemic disease that can be associated with impairment of melanocyte function organs other than the skin, including the eyes and ears. The function of auditory melanocytes is related to the hearing process and thus their destruction could lead to hearing impairment," wrote the authors.
"By contrast, ocular melanocytes do not play a direct role in detection or transfer of visual information, and thus should not affect vision. Vitiligo may be associated with ocular abnormalities and hearing loss."
The study titled, "Ocular and auditory abnormalities in patients with vitiligo: a case–control study," is published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology.