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Poliosis (White Hair Patch): Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Poliosis is a condition that causes white patches on an individual's hair. An individual can be born with the condition or can develop it during any point of age. You may have noticed it on some of the famous fictional characters Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter or Benjamin Barker in Sweeney Todd [1] . Individuals with poliosis have a decreased level or complete lack of melanin in their hair follicles.

The condition is also called as poliosis circumscripta and affects your eyelashes, head hair, eyebrows and any other areas with hair. When the condition affects the head hair that is right above the forehead, it is called as white forelock. The white patch can be concentrated in one place or can affect several areas of your hair. In accordance with the underlying causes, the condition can be long-term or short-term [2] , [3] .

[Source: Joe.Miller]

Poliosis is not life-threatening and does not affect your health. However, it can co-occur with some severe medical conditions [4] such as vitiligo, Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease, alopecia areata, sarcoidosis etc.

Symptoms Of Poliosis

It is easy to identify the development of this condition. Signs and symptoms of poliosis include patches of white hair on any part of the body that has hair. Poliosis can appear suddenly at any age, irrespective of gender [5] .

Types Of Poliosis

The condition is categorised into two categories [6] , [7] .

  • Genetic or congenital poliosis: In some cases, poliosis can be hereditary. The white patches of hair can be present at the time of birth due to the mutation of certain genes or other genetic issues.
  • Acquired poliosis: The condition can also develop as a side effect or an after effect of certain medical conditions. It can cause the development of white patches of hair in one's later stages of life.

Causes Of Poliosis

The reasons for the development of the condition can be pointed out to various reasons. According to common assumptions, poliosis is caused due to psychological trauma, physical shock and stress. Scientifically, it has been proven that the following are the reasons behind the development of poliosis [8] , [9] , [10] .

  • Genetic disorders: Such as piebaldism, Waardenburg's syndrome, Marfan's syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) syndrome, giant congenital nevus, and Alezzandrini syndrome.
  • Auto-immune diseases: Such as vitiligo, hypopituitarism, neurofibromatosis, thyroid diseases, sarcoidosis, hypogonadism, idiopathic uveitis, intradermal nevus, post-inflammatory dermatoses, skin cancer, halo nevus, post-trauma, GAPO syndrome, and pernicious anaemia.
  • Other causes: Such as melanoma, alopecia areata, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, herpes zoster or shingles, radiotherapy, melanisation defects, dermatitis, albino, injuries, ageing, stress, halo moles, hypo or hyperpigmentation of eyes, leprosy, and certain drugs.

Conditions Associated With Poliosis

As mentioned earlier, it is not life-threatening or harmful. However, it can be an early indication or warning sign of critical health issues [11] . The conditions linked with poliosis are as follows:

  • Melanoma (skin cancer)
  • Uveitis that can lead to glaucoma and cataracts
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Thyroid disorders that can cause fatigue, trouble swallowing, depression, memory issues, high cholesterol, low sex drive and weight gain

Diagnosis Of Poliosis

The appearance of the grey or white patch of hair is the only sign required to diagnose the condition [12] .

If the condition is affecting your child it is necessary to go to a doctor immediately. Although children can be born with white patches of hair, it can also be an indication of thyroid disorders, vitamin B12 deficiency etc. For this, the doctor may advise a blood test [13] .

However, due to the condition's association with several other conditions, a thorough check-up may be required. The doctor will go through the medical history of the individual and inquire about the occurrence of poliosis in the family. The diagnosis may include a complete physical inspection,

nutritional survey, endocrinal survey, blood test, analysis of a skin sample and neurological causes [14] .

Treatment For Poliosis

Currently, there is a lack of proper treatment to permanently change the white patches caused by poliosis. However, you can adopt the following measures to limit the onset of the condition [15] .

  • Limited intake of antibiotics
  • Increasing exposure to UV-B lamps
  • Applying Ammi majus medication
  • Undergoing an epidermal grafting on the depigmented skin (present underneath the white hair patch)

Some of the other ways in which the condition can be managed are by dyeing your hair, wearing hats, bandanna, headbands, or other types of hair coverings. Or, you can leave it as it is!

View Article References
  1. [1] Chen, C. S., Wells, J., & Craig, J. E. (2004). Topical prostaglandin f2α analog induced poliosis.American journal of ophthalmology,137(5), 965-966.
  2. [2] Rones, B. (1932). Uveitis with dysacousia, alopecia and poliosis.Archives of Ophthalmology,7(6), 847-855.
  3. [3] Kern, T. J., Walton, D. K., Riis, R. C., Manning, T. O., Laratta, L. J., & Dziezyc, J. (1985). Uveitis associated with poliosis and vitiligo in six dogs.Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association,187(4), 408-414.
  4. [4] Koplon, B. S., & Shapiro, L. (1968). Poliosis overlying a neurofibroma.Archives of dermatology,98(6), 631-633.
  5. [5] HAGUE, E. B. (1944). Uveitis; Dysacousia; Alopecia; Poliosis, and Vitiligo: A Theory as to Cause.Archives of Ophthalmology,31(6), 520-538.
  6. [6] Parker, W. R. (1940). Severe Uveitis with Associated Alopecia, Poliosis, Vitiligo and Deafness: A Second Review of the Published Records.Archives of Ophthalmology,24(3), 439-446.
  7. [7] Sleiman, R., Kurban, M., Succaria, F., & Abbas, O. (2013). Poliosis circumscripta: overview and underlying causes.Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology,69(4), 625-633.
  8. [8] Yosipovitch, G., Feinmesser, M., & Mutalik, S. (1999). Poliosis associated with a giant congenital nevus.Archives of dermatology,135(7), 859-861.
  9. [9] Nordlund, J. J., Taylor, N. T., Albert, D. M., Wagoner, M. D., & Lerner, A. B. (1981). The prevalence of vitiligo and poliosis in patients with uveitis.Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology,4(5), 528-536.
  10. [10] Bansal, L., Zinkus, T. P., & Kats, A. (2018). Poliosis With a Rare Association.Pediatric neurology,83, 62-63.
  11. [11] Vainstein, G., & Nemet, A. Y. (2016). Unilateral poliosis of eyelashes.Ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery,32(3), e73-e74.
  12. [12] Wilson, L. M., Beasley, K. J., Sorrells, T. C., & Johnson, V. V. (2017). Congenital neurocristic cutaneous hamartoma with poliosis: A case report.Journal of cutaneous pathology,44(11), 974-977.
  13. [13] Vyas, R., Selph, J., & Gerstenblith, M. R. (2016, June). Cutaneous manifestations associated with melanoma. InSeminars in oncology(Vol. 43, No. 3, pp. 384-389). WB Saunders.
  14. [14] Bayer, M. L., & Chiu, Y. E. (2017). Successful Treatment of Vitiligo Associated with Vogt–Koyanagi–Harada Disease.Pediatric dermatology,34(2), 204-205.
  15. [15] Thomas, S., Laino, A., Sturm, R., Nufer, K., Lambie, D., Shepherd, B., ... & Schaider, H. (2018). Focal regression of a primary melanoma, fading lentigines and poliosis in metastatic melanoma treated with anti-PD-1.Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: JEADV,32(5), e176.

Story first published: Wednesday, April 3, 2019, 16:00 [IST]
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