Poliosis is a medical hair condition in which the absence of melanin causes white hair patches. These white hair patches are formed on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and beard (1). It can be seen in both men and women of any age, and there can be various causes of this condition. In this article, we will delve into the causes and treatment of poliosis. Scroll down for more information.
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What Is Poliosis Or White Hair Patch?
Poliosis is a localized patch of white hair, also known as white forelock. It develops due to a discoloration caused by the absence of melanin (1). Poliosis is a harmless hair disorder that will not jeopardize your health. But it can be a symptom of a serious underlying medical condition like chronic inflammation, vitiligo, melanoma skin cancer, or thyroid disorders.
Depending on the underlying cause of this de-pigmentation, poliosis can be short-term or long-term. It can be found in people of all ages, irrespective of gender.
Poliosis or those white patches of hair on the scalp can be divided into two categories. Let’s go through them in the following section.
Different Types Of Poliosis
- Genetic/Congenital – These white patches of hair can be hereditary at times. They can be present at the time of birth due to the mutation of certain genes or other genetic issues (2).
- Acquired – If not congenital, poliosis is considered acquired. It can be the side or after effect of certain medical conditions that become visible in the later stages of life (2).
What Are The Causes Of Poliosis?
- Genetic Disorders: Poliosis can be caused due to hereditary or genetic disorders like piebaldism, Waardenburg’s syndrome, Marfan’s syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) syndrome, giant congenital nevus, and Alessandrini syndrome.
- Autoimmune Diseases: Autoimmune diseases can cause a loss of melanin pigmentation. Conditions like vitiligo, hypogonadism, hypopituitarism, skin cancer, thyroid diseases, sarcoidosis, GAPO syndrome, neurofibromatosis, idiopathic uveitis, intradermal nevus, post-inflammatory dermatoses, halo nevus, post-trauma, and pernicious anemia, often co-occur with poliosis.
- Others: Poliosis has also been connected to inflammatory, benign, and malignant neoplastic entities (2). It may also connected to alopecia areata, melanoma, herpes zoster (shingles), halo moles, radiotherapy, hypo or hyperpigmentation of eyes, melanization defects, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, dermatitis, albino, leprosy, injuries, aging, stress, and certain drugs.
How Is The Condition Diagnosed?
White hair patches are a clear and definitive sign of poliosis. As this hair disorder is not associated with a single medical condition, it is important to go for a thorough check-up for proper diagnosis. If a child develops patchy white hair, it can be diagnosed as poliosis, as white hair is uncommon in kids.
Getting a check-up is imperative as poliosis can be a sign of a serious medical condition like inflammation or skin cancer. The healthcare professional will go through the detailed medical history and family record of the patient. After that, the following assessments would be carried out:
- Complete physical inspection
- Nutritional survey
- Endocrine survey
- Blood test
- Analysis of a skin sample
- Neurological causes
Is There Any Effective Treatment?
Although there are not many treatment options available for poliosis, there are some viable treatments to reverse poliosis when paired with other ailments.
Research shows that skin grafting, followed by light therapy can reverse poliosis related to vitiligo (4). Another study conducted in 2016 showed that laser therapy sessions paired with daily oral medication might bring back 75% of the color in affected areas over a period of six months (5).
Treatment for hereditary poliosis is yet to be discovered. Since poliosis itself is not a serious cause of concern, most people simply dye their hair to cover the white patches. Anecdotal evidence suggests that taking steps, like reducing stress and eating healthy, to prevent premature graying of hair can also reduce patchy hair.
While poliosis is not a serious medical condition, it might affect the physical appearance. Do not let this discoloration bring you down. Contact your doctor to ensure that there is no underlying condition causing poliosis. Look at it as an opportunity to try out new hair colors. Or embrace the white patches and flaunt a confident salt and pepper look.
- Bansal, Lalit, Timothy P. Zinkus, and Alexander Kats. “Poliosis With a Rare Association.” Pediatric Neurology 83 (2018): 62-63.
- Sleiman, Rima et al. “Poliosis circumscripta: overview and underlying causes.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology vol. 69,4 (2013): 625-33.
- Neri, Iria et al. “Poliosis and Neurofibromatosis Type 1: Two Familiar Cases and Review of Literature.” Skin appendage disorders vol. 3,4 (2017): 219-221.
- Awad, Sherif S. “Repigmentation of poliosis after epithelial grafting for vitiligo.” Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.] vol. 39,3 Pt 1 (2013): 406-11.
- Jung Min Bae, MD, PhD, Hyuck Sun Kwon, MD, Ji Hae Lee, MD, PhD & Gyong Moon Kim, MD, PhD (2016). Repigmentation Of Poliosis In A Patient With Segmental Vitiligo.