When you wake up one morning and see white hair patches on your head, then it will give you a rude shock. The condition can make you freak out and cause worry at the same time. What is the cause of the problem and how to deal with it? The condition, also known as poliosis is a hair disorder. Both males and females can suffer from the condition. While the condition may not trigger any serious complications in itself, it will make you look weird. It will take a toll on your self-esteem. But, in some cases, it can point towards serious complications. Read ahead to learn more about the condition and how to deal with it?
About White Hair Patches
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Due to poliosis, you develop white hair patches. The unusual patch of gray hair looks different from your natural hair color. Children and adults can suffer from the condition. You may have seen the same condition in real life or people playing a character in movies or on TV/stage. One of the famous characters with poliosis is Sweeney Todd, played by Johnny Depp. The word is Poliosis is derived from Greek where “polios” means gray. In normal people, melanin is the substance that gives the hair its natural color. Due to some unknown reasons, the decreased or complete lack of melanin in the hair follicles (roots of the hair) can result in the condition.
Is White Hair Patches Dangerous?
When you first see the white hair patches, you feel panicked. It is specifically true when your loved ones suffer from the condition. In most of the cases, poliosis alone does not cause any serious complications. Without any other symptoms, the condition can only make you feel self-conscious. It is because gray hair is mostly linked to aging. The condition alone cannot harm your health. But, in some cases, the condition co-occurs with other underlying health problems. So, for better safety, you need to see a doctor get a detailed assessment of your condition.
When poliosis occurs alone, it may not cause harm to your physical health. But, it affects your mental health. It is because you look weird as well as different from others. It is specifically true for people who develop a single, small gray patch. With the condition only affecting a small area, you procrastinate to seek proper medical assistance.
Who Feel Bothered By White Hair Patches?
While the white hair patches may not seriously harm the health of the affected person, it affects the visual appeal. Since the strands with discoloration are concentrate on one spot or in patches, it makes the person look different. People who develop later in life are more concerned about it as they fail to come in terms with the condition faster. For people who have the problem from their childhood are used to poliosis and will see it as natural as normal birthmarks. When the condition affects women, they feel concerned. It is because women value their visual appeal more compared to men. Women have more value for beauty and style. Women suffer from the condition due to the use of products containing some type of chemicals. Such people can use hair colors, hats, scarfs, or other coverings to conceal the spot on their heads.
Development Of White Hair Patches
So, how do you develop white hair patches? In normal cases, melanocytes are responsible for hair color. You can find the melanocytes in your hair follicle. These cells are solely responsible for providing your hair with its right pigment. While the exact reasons remain unclear on how the melanocytes reduce its performance, it can cause the hair to lose the pigment and turn white. It is observed that people who are aging show reduced performance of melanocytes. People who are above forty years display reduced functioning of melanocytes. So, people who reach their forties can see their hair turning gray. As they reach 50 or 60 years, melanocytes stop functioning. When the melanocytes stop its function, then you can see the hair turning white. It is due to the lack of melanin.
The condition affects almost all people. But, only some suffer from selected areas of gray hair. These look like patches and develop early in life or at later stages. If you see a teenager developing poliosis, then it is understood that genetic factors are responsible for the condition. When small children or teens suffer from the problem, then they need to seek early treatment to deal with the issue. With early intervention, it is possible to research and get advice for the condition effectively.
Signs Of White Hair Patches
As the name suggests, you can see visual evidence for the condition. It includes one or more areas with a distinctive pattern of gray hair on the head or other hairy areas of the body. The condition usually affects the scalp. So, you can see the pattern on your head more compared to other areas. But, the condition also affects areas like eyelashes, eyebrows, and others covered with hair. You can spot the poliosis with ease. It also shows up on your body as a single grey patch or several patches, specifically in areas covered by hair. You tend to notice the condition easily when it affects your head hair.
Causes of White Hair Patches
What actually occurs, leading to the development of white hair patches remain unclear. But, abnormal changes occurring due to certain diseases or conditions that can result in abnormal functioning of melanocytes. Melanocytes are responsible for providing color pigmentation to your hair.
In some cases, parents suffer from some genetic issues that their children inherit. Such issues are present in the child by birth. So, a newborn baby becomes a victim of poliosis. Some of the genetic conditions are:
It is the genetic condition affecting people at birth. Due to the condition, the affected person develops a white patch or unpigmented skin and/or hair. In people with piebaldism, the cells determining the hair, skin, and eye color remains absent in certain areas. The cells determining the color is also known as melanocytes.
This disease is a group of genetic conditions. When a person suffers from the condition, they can suffer from changes in the pigmentation of eyes, skin, and hair. The condition can also affect the hearing of the person. While they have normal hearing, affected people experience moderate to severe hearing loss in one or both the ears.
MFS or Marfan syndrome refers to the genetic disorder affecting your connective tissue. While the disease has specific characteristics like long arms, fingers, legs, and toes, they can also develop poliosis. People suffering from the condition tend to have a thin and tall stature. They also suffer from scoliosis and flexible joints.
White hair patches can also occur in people who suffer from tuberous sclerosis. The condition causes the development of growth of tumors in different organs in the body. The tumor can develop in the brain, skin, eyes, kidneys, lungs, or heart. The growths developed are mostly benign (non-cancerous). A child with the condition exhibits the symptoms during birth others develop the symptoms over time.
Vogt- Koyanagi- Harada (VKH) syndrome
VKH syndrome refers to the disease caused due to the inflammation of melanocytes. Due to the inflammation, you can see changes in melanin, which produces the pigmentation. The disease can affect several body parts like ears, eyes, skin, and nervous system.
Giant congenital nevus
It refers to the genetic skin condition, causing a noncancerous skin patch that is abnormally dark due to the presence of melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells. It is observed that people suffering from genetic disease suffer from poliosis.
It is a rare syndrome with specific characteristics. People develop it due to the breakdown as well as the loss of cells present in the retina (also known as retinitis pigmentosa). The retina is present at the back of your eye and is sensitive to light. Apart from that, you can also see vitiligo (white patches on your skin), whitening of eyelashes and eyebrows, and poliosis. All these distinctive features appear on the same side of the face.
Autoimmune Diseases Causing White Hair Patches
When you suffer from any autoimmune disease, then you can develop poliosis. Autoimmune disease refers to the medical condition causing the immune system to attack your body cells. In normal cases, the immune system acts as a defense system in guarding your body against viruses, bacteria, and other harmful pathogens. When foreign invaders attack your body, the brain sends signals to send out an army of white blood cells to attack them. Due to disorder in your immune system, the white blood cells attack the cells in the body. The autoimmune condition triggering the problem are:
- GAPO syndrome
- Idiopathic uveitis
- Post-inflammatory dermatoses
- Intradermal nevus
- Pernicious anemia
- Halo nevus
Other Reasons Causing White Hair Patches
While the above-mentioned conditions can cause poliosis, you can also develop the problem due to other reasons. The following conditions can also affect melanocytes. So, the conditions are:
- Shingles (herpes zoster)
- Alopecia areata
- Halo moles
- Increasing age
Types of White Hair Patches
There two types of poliosis. Based on how you develop the white hair patches, you classify it as the following:
If you develop the condition due to a genetic disorder or any genetic issues affecting the parents that you can inherit during the birth, then it is referred to as genetic poliosis. So, you suffer from the problem by birth.
It means you develop the changes in your hair color as a result of various underlying medical conditions or due to the after-effects of taking some medication. So, it is not a genetic or congenital condition and you acquire it due to some issues in the latter part of your life.
Complications Of White Hair Patches
Poliosis is not a harmful condition in itself. So, if you see white hair patches without any other signs in your body, you never have to panic. The harmless condition occurs due to the lack of pigment in your hair follicles. This results in your dark hair becoming white or gray. You can suffer from the problem by birth due to some genetic predisposition or can appear at a later stage in your life without any warning. While the condition itself causes you no harm, you need to maintain caution as it may appear due to some underlying health issues. So, you need to consult a doctor. Here are some of the complications you can face due to poliosis:
Escalation Of Medical Condition
Medical issues can trigger poliosis. So, based on the underlying issue, the complication varies. Let’s see them in detail:
Melanoma is a dangerous type of skin cancer. Since it involves melanocytes, you can develop poliosis due to the condition. Melanocytes are the cells responsible for providing color for your skin and hair. Due to the depletion of melanocytes, it can result in hair going gray. So, if you see the condition, then get it diagnosed by the doctor. It is because melanoma is the most aggressive type of cancer as it causes dangerous results when it spreads. So, early identification of the lesion and better treatment can offer a good outlook.
Thyroid disorders cause hormonal problems. The hormones fluctuate triggering hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. It can result in turning the hair gray. You need to see a doctor for getting proper treatment for thyroid disorders. Without proper treatment, you need to face complications. So, without medical intervention, you can experience changes in a heartbeat (dangerous low or fast heartbeat), the low healing power of injuries, and severe pain.
Inflammatory condition like autoimmune problems occurs when your immune system starts attacking the tissues in the body. Due to the condition, the immune system considers your body’s cells as foreign invaders and attacks it. It can cause inflammation, which can also result in turning the hair gray.
Lack Of Self Esteem
In some cases, the condition is triggered by psychological stress and medications. With proper medical intervention, you can overcome the condition. But, the patches of white strands can make you feel self-conscious. Most people like to have an attractive visual appeal to make an impression. With gray strands, your confidence levels plummet. To regain your self-confidence, you need to undergo treatment to reverse poliosis or dye your strands.
Most people try to ignore the condition by thinking it as harmless or the time, effort, and money it takes for the treatment. But, some people suffer from underlying health conditions that can result in serious complications without medical intervention. So, you need to see a doctor to eliminate the presence of any underlying health condition. With proper treatment and management, you can overcome the distress and mental issues the condition can trigger.
Diagnosis Of White Hair Patches
Poliosis can occur due to various reasons. So, you need to see a doctor to detect the underlying cause triggering the condition. Some serious health conditions can lead to the problem. So, finding the exact cause of the problem is essential to determine the treatment. Here are the methods to diagnose the problem:
Thorough Physical Checkup
Your doctor performs a thorough medical checkup to detect the actual condition causing the problem. During the physical assessment, your doctor also checks the medical history. It helps understand if an underlying health issue or medication results in the condition. Based on the assessment, your doctor suggests further tests.
Blood Test To Detect Reason For White Hair Patches
In some cases, poliosis occurs due to vitamin deficiencies, thyroid disorders, or other serious conditions. So, you need to provide a sample of your blood for testing. The blood test can help uncover the medical condition triggering the condition.
Nutrition Surveys are usually national cross-sectional studies that are performed to assess the nutritional status of a selected population, identify the group at risk of chronic malnutrition, evaluate existing nutritional problems, and inform evidence-based nutrition policies
Since certain neurological disorders like Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease, tuberous sclerosis, trigeminal neuralgia, and neurofibroma can cause poliosis, your doctor suggests some neurological tests to detect the issue.
Skin Sample Analysis
As suggested earlier, skin cancer can result in poliosis. So, your doctor suggests a skin analysis, which detects the presence of cancerous cells that trigger the condition.
Based on the diagnosis, your doctor determines the treatment needed to deal with the condition. The condition is not a disease itself. So, people who suffer from poliosis alone are healthy. They just see the gray hair, which can occur due to hereditary or other medical condition.
Treatment For White Hair Patches
While there is no proper treatment to permanently change the gray or white hair, triggered due to poliosis. But, you have a combination of treatment options to reverse the condition to an extent. It is important to uncover the underlying condition triggering the problem for effective results. The treatment options available are:
Eliminate Causative Factors
It is essential to detect the actual cause of the problem to manage white hair patches. In some cases, psychological trauma, stressful experience, and physical shocks can lead to the condition. So, try to eliminate stress from your life that can result in the condition. So, try some relaxation techniques to keep stress and anxiety away from your life.
Discuss Your Antibiotic Intake
Taking antibiotics for long can cause your hair to turn gray. So, you need to discuss your options for antibiotic intake with the doctor. Try to discuss the dose and duration of your antibiotic intake. Ask your doctor to change the dose or duration of the medication to avoid poliosis.
Combination Of Therapies
Studies have confirmed the efficiency of the combination of treatment can help reverse poliosis. So, people who can wait for patients to see the effects of the condition along with vitiligo reversed can try it. It involves undergoing a skin grafting treatment. You need to undergo epidermal grafting on the affected region. So, the doctor targets the depigmented skin beneath your gray hair. Then, you need to undergo laser therapy sessions. Your doctor uses a UV-B lamp ray on the affected area repeatedly. Along with the therapy you need to take oral medication and apply Ammi majus (herbal medication) available in lotion/ointment form on the affected area. You have to undergo therapy for several months. It may take several sessions to see the color returning to the area. If you want the condition to reverse, you need to make your mind to undergo intensive therapy. It is also time-consuming and expensive.
Dye Your Hair For Covering White Hair Patches
You can cover the white hair patches by opting for hair coloring. Hair dye or hair color is the simplest and highly-effective procedure to color the gray patches. It is neither expensive nor time-consuming as you can try it at home. While coloring your hair at a saloon offers more professional results, during the COVID-19 pandemic, you fear for your safety. So, you can try hair coloring at home by buying the best shade at the store. You can choose the color that looks close to the current strand’s color. Look at the boxes as they have displayed color. You can hold the box next to your locks to find the perfect shade.
To maintain the effectiveness of the color, you need to limit using water on your hair. It is because the salt, chlorine, and minerals in water can result in the hair’s cuticle to lift. It results in pigment loss. Use dry shampoo and limit the wetting of hair for maintaining the color applied. You can use a home kit to complete the process at home. But, you will have to re-dye the strands when the lighter roots make its appearance.
Use Head Cover
If you are not keen on using hair color, then you can choose to wear a head cover. So, you can opt for bandanas, hats, headbands, or other hair coverings available.
While you have therapies to change the gray strands affected by poliosis to its natural color, it is not 100 % effective. But, you have several other methods to make the white hair patches less visible. You can try the methods that are relatively easy, simple, yet effective. But, before trying the methods, you need to learn the underlying reason for poliosis. While the condition rarely spreads to others, you have to know what the actual cause of the condition is. With simple methods, you can make the permanent condition less noticeable.View Article Sources