What is premature greying?
Greying of hair is a natural process that occurs as you age. However, it becomes a problem if you start to experience premature greying of your hair at an early age, at thirty years or less. There are many reasons for premature greying; some result in a temporary condition that can be managed while preventing others could be difficult.
What are the causes of the disorder?
Hair follicles contain a pigment known as melanin, which gives colour to your hair. The degree of darkness of your hair colour depends on the amount of melanin in each hair strand. Greying of hair occurs naturally as you age because there is a gradual decrease in the production of melanin over the years, which stops completely over the years.
Premature greying of hair or stoppage of melanin production at an early age may occur due to a variety of reasons. These include:
- Genetics – Heredity is a prime reason for premature greying of hair. There are high chances of your hair greying sooner than normal if one of your parents had grey hair earlier than usual.
- Medical conditions – Certain medical ailments like thyroid disorder, pituitary gland imbalance, vitiligo and other skin conditions are said to be associated with premature greying of hair.
- Nutrient deficiency – Deficiency of some vitamins (vitamin B12) and minerals (copper, manganese, folic acid, iron, iodine) can lead to premature greying of hair. Copper is needed for the production of the pigment, melanin. Manganese plays an important role in enzyme activation and its deficiency can hamper crucial biochemical processes in the body. Folic acid promotes growth of healthy hair, nails and skin due to its role in normal protein synthesis and cell growth.
- Stress – Prolonged periods of stress and anxiety can trigger hair greying.
- Lifestyle – Studies have suggested that smoking may cause premature greying of hair. Further, excessive consumption of oily and acidic foods and beverages (tea, coffee, alcohol) may lead to the disorder.
What you need to know about symptoms or signs?
Greying of hair can be easily detected by
- Appearance of silver strands of hair
- Patches of grey hair
- Loss of hair’s original colour
Which specialist should you consult if you have any of the signs and symptoms?
Consult with a trichologist as soon as you begin to notice grey strands of hair if they are not normal for your age. A trichologist is a specialist dermatologist who deals with treatment of hair and scalp issues.
What are the screening tests and investigations done to confirm or rule out the disorder?
Your doctor will physically examine your hair and scalp and substantiate his/her observations through a capilloscopic report (high resolution imaging of hair strands). A hair analysis will provide a detailed picture of the current situation of your hair roots and shaft. You will also be asked questions pertaining to any family history of hair greying prematurely. Blood tests will be carried out to determine any underlying medical conditions responsible for premature greying of hair.
What treatment modalities are available for management of the disorder?
Treatment for premature greying of hair is carried out to control, regulate or reverse the greying process. Various treatment options for premature greying of hair include:
- Medication and therapy – Your doctor may prescribe creams, gel, shampoo or oil for topical application on hair and scalp. There are certain patented therapeutic techniques available that may be recommended to you by your specialist depending upon your condition.
- Diet – A healthy diet with balanced amounts of all nutrients is essential in complementing any hair treatment. Protein rich foods and foods rich in vitamins, minerals and iron not only aid the treatment of premature greying of hair but also help in preventing it from advancing to a higher level.
- Lifestyle changes – Healthy lifestyle choices like avoiding alcohol, quitting smoking and managing stress are an integral part of treatment for premature greying of hair. Avoid harsh treatments like chemicals in styling products and heat application for your hair.
Is there any risk to other family members of having the disorder?
There are genetic links to premature greying of hair. If you have a family history of the disorder, it is likely that your family members may also share the same pattern.
How can you prevent the disorder from happening or recurring?
Maintain a balanced diet, keep stress levels under control and practise healthy lifestyle habits to prevent the occurrence or control the advancement of the disorder.
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“Gray Hair at 25? Yes. Here’s What You Can Do,” US News Health, Angela Haupt, 23 August, 2012, https://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/08/23/gray-hair-at-25-yes-heres-what-you-can-do
“Premature greying,” National Skin Centre, https://www.thenationalskincentre.com/Premature-greying.html
“Premature Graying: Reasons, Options,” WebMD.com, Daphne Sashin, 2010, https://www.webmd.com/beauty/hair-nails/abcs-premature-graying
“Tips to prevent premature greying,” The Times of India, TNN, 28 June, 2013, https://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-06-28/beauty/30474761_1_premature-greying-crowning-glory-greying-hair
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