White Hair Patches- Its Causes And Treatments

by Nilankeeta Roy Chowdhury

Imagine waking up one fine day to find a patch of white hair on your head! What will you do? No doubt, you will get the shock of your life – you will freak out and start screaming like a lunatic, that’s what I’ll do!

White hair patch on head is a hair disorder, which is medically termed as poliosis. It can be seen in both male and female of any age and there may be various causes behind this condition. But, whatever the reason, it looks weird and takes a toll on our self esteem. So, let us dig deeper into poliosis today and learn more about it.

What Is Poliosis Or White Hair Patch?

Poliosis is a small ‘localized patch’ of white hair (forelock or streak at the front of the hairline) that develops in regular hair. In this condition, the melanin pigment present in the hair follicles of that area decreases significantly, which results in the discoloration of the strands. Depending upon the underlying causes of this de-pigmentation, poliosis can be both short-term and long-term. It can be found in people of all ages, irrespective of gender. Though it is mainly seen on the head, but one can develop this white hair patch even on the other parts of the body too.

Different Types Of Poliosis:

Poliosis or those white patches of hair on the head can be divided into the following two categories:

1. Genetic / Congenital: Sometimes, these white patches of hair can be hereditary. They can be present at the time of birth of a baby due to mutation of certain genes or other genetic issues.

2. Acquired: If not congenital, poliosis is considered as acquired. It can be the side or after effect of certain medical conditions that becomes visible in the later parts of life.

What Are The Causes Behind It?

There is a wide variety of causes lying behind the formation of such white hair patches on head. We have listed them below:

  • Genetic Disorders: Piebaldism, Waardenburg’s syndrome, Marfan’s syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) syndrome, giant congenital nevus, and Alezzandrini syndrome.
  • Auto-Immune Diseases: Vitiligo, hypogonadism, hypopituitarism, skin cancer, thyroid diseases, sarcoidosis, GAPO syndrome, neurofibromatosis, idiopathic uveitis, intradermal nevus, post-inflammatory dermatoses, halo nevus, post-trauma, and pernicious anaemia.
  • Others: Alopecia areata, melanoma, herpes zoster (shingles), halo moles, radiotherapy, hypo or hyperpigmentation of eyes, melanisationdefets, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, dermatitis, albino, leprosy, injuries, aging, stress and certain drugs.

How Is The Condition Diagnosed?

As this hair disorder is not associated with a single medical condition, it is important to go for a thorough checkup for the proper diagnosis. At first, the healthcare professional would go through the detailed medical history as well as the family record of the patient. After that, the following assessments would be carried out:

  • Complete physical inspection
  • Nutritional survey
  • Endocrinal survey
  • Blood test
  • Analysis of a skin sample
  • Neurological causes

Is There Any Effective Treatment?

Proper treatment of poliosis is yet to be discovered, especially if it is congenital. However, there are quite a few preventive methods that can be followed to avoid such conditions in the later phase of life. These include:

  • Trying to eliminate the causative factors that can lead to the formation of white hair patches on head.
  • Treating all those causative factors can also help in avoiding the situation.
  • Putting a stop to the too much intake of antibiotics.
  • Increasing exposure to UV-B lamps.
  • Applying Ammi majus medication (lotion or ointment).
  • Undergoing an epidermal grafting right on the depigmented skin present underneath the white hair patch.

If the tuft of white hair bothers you too much, simply dye it regularly. You can also opt for a hairstyle that will help you hide that weird part of your hair. And the salt and pepper look can give a certain character to your appearance, if you can carry it!

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Nilankeeta Roy Chowdhury