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Poliosis - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Poliosis is a rare condition that causes a white streak in the hair, affecting both adults and children. Read to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav

Published At December 19, 2022
Reviewed AtFebruary 27, 2024

Introduction

The conventional definition of a disease as "rare" is 1:2,000 in the European Union and 1:200,000 in the US. As a result, the list of these conditions is quite extensive and includes up to 8,000 pathologies, some of which still have unresolved molecular or biochemical underlying abnormalities. Conventionally, rare diseases, also known as "orphan" diseases, are those that affect a very small number of people yet are nevertheless capable of necessitating ineffective treatment, long-term disability, and even death. Poliosis is also one of the rare diseases for which only supportive treatments are available. This article gives an overview of poliosis.

What Is Poliosis?

Poliosis, also called poliosis circumscripta or white forelock, is a condition that causes a white streak or patch in the hair, contrary to the natural hair color. This can occur on any part of the body with hair, including eyebrows, eyelashes, head hair, and scalp affecting adults and children. Poliosis is a clinical sign rather than a diagnosis. While poliosis is harmless, it may be associated with other conditions. Some of those can be harmful. Poliosis is a rare, uncommon condition. This condition equally affects men and women in all ethnic groups, but the disease is more visible and noticeable in dark-skinned people. Many people can get poliosis from birth, or it may appear suddenly at other life stages.

What Causes Poliosis?

A low amount of melanin (a pigment that gives skin and hair color) and melanocytes (cells that make melanin) cause poliosis in the hair follicle. Poliosis is broadly divided into two types:

1. Acquired Poliosis: Acquired poliosis is usually caused by different eye disorders but can also be related to some autoimmune conditions or certain medications.

Causes of acquired poliosis include:

  • Blepharitis: Inflammation of the eyelid due to clogged oil glands.

  • Sympathetic Ophthalmia: Rare inflammation in the eye after trauma or surgery.

  • Shingles: Painful rashes caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus in the body.

  • Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada Disease: A rare disorder in which the immune system attacks the pigment cells and affects the eyes, ears, nervous system, and skin.

  • Vitiligo: A long-term condition in which the immune system attacks the pigment cells and causes white patches on the skin.

  • Halo Nevus: A mole surrounded by a white ring around a mole.

  • Medications: Systemic medications, such as Acitretin and Chloroquine. Topical medications like Imiquimod, Chloramphenicol, and Bimatoprost..

2. Genetic Poliosis: A gene mutation can cause poliosis. Some genetic poliosis causes are:

  • Tuberous Sclerosis: A rare genetic multisystem disease that causes benign growth in different body parts. It also causes patches of white skin, seizures, intellectual disabilities, and other concerns.

  • Piebaldism: An inherited disorder characterized by white patches of skin and hair due to a genetic change in proteins in the skin cells.

  • Waardenburg Syndrome: A rare group of congenital diseases that cause white patches of skin and hair, along with neurological, vision, and hearing problems.

What Are the Symptoms of Poliosis?

The characteristic symptom of poliosis is a white streak or patch in the hair. It can affect patches of hair on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes, arms, surrounding skin, and scalp. People with poliosis may have a small patch of white hair or many other symptoms if their poliosis is due to another underlying condition.

The symptoms can vary widely and depend on the condition. They may include:

  • Patches of white skin.

  • Blurry vision.

  • Eye inflammation.

  • Hair loss.

  • Hearing loss.

  • Neurological problems.

  • Pressure buildup in the eye.

  • Skin and organ growths.

How Is Poliosis Diagnosed?

Poliosis is relatively easy to identify. The presence of streaks of white patches or spots on hairy body parts is sufficient to diagnose this condition. It is most easily diagnosed when it involves the head. The doctor can often diagnose poliosis by simply looking at it. However, the doctor may do more tests if there are other symptoms. These tests may be:

  • Eye examination.

  • Skin examination under a Wood’s lamp.

  • Blood test.

  • Skin biopsy.

How Is Poliosis Treated?

There is no effective treatment for poliosis. However, if there are other conditions, the doctor diagnoses and treats them. For example, the doctor may prescribe steroid creams and use light therapy for vitiligo, but these medications usually do not stop the white patches from spreading.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to permanently change the shade of the hair affected by poliosis. But, if a person wishes to make their poliosis less noticeable, the basic choice to color the hair that poliosis has lightened. If the skin is also affected, wearing sunscreen and protecting the skin with hats or long clothing is necessary. Some people may feel upset about their white hair, which can affect their self-esteem and confidence. They can use hair dye or wear a hat, bandana, headscarf, or wig.

Some clinical treatments can reverse poliosis, such as:

  • Research suggests that a skin grafting treatment followed by light therapy for 4 to 11 months can reverse poliosis combined with vitiligo. The treatment included laser therapy, daily application of the ointment, and oral medicine.

  • However, these therapies are highly intense, expensive, and time-consuming. Thus, most people with poliosis do not seek clinical medicines. Instead, they let the hair be as it is.

What Is the Outlook for People With Poliosis?

Poliosis is a permanent condition caused by a lack of melanin and melanocytes, which leads to permanent color loss. Rarely does poliosis spread once a person has it. However, it is simple to make it less noticeable if a person wishes to do so. Talk to a doctor if the color loss is new or if white skin patches are spreading. If poliosis affects the child, it is important to see a doctor. It can signify thyroid disorders, vitamin B-12 deficiency, and other serious conditions. Science and medicine should now begin a historic initiative to offer more reliable solutions for better detection and treatment of "rare diseases", such as Poliosis, in order to increase the quantity and quality of patients' lives.

Conclusion

Poliosis is a rare, uncommon condition and harmless condition lacking pigment in hair follicles, which causes them to become white. The condition can exist from birth or appear without warning at any age. While poliosis is harmless, it may be associated with other conditions, some of which can be harmful. For this reason, getting an opinion from a doctor when signs of poliosis first appear is a good idea. Medical treatments can reverse poliosis, but they are often highly intense, expensive, and time-consuming. Therefore, people with poliosis may find it easier to let their hair remain as it is or color it rather than seek other treatments. Visit a doctor to ensure that there is no underlying condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How to Treat Poliosis?

For poliosis, there is no effective treatment. One case of laser treatment for eyebrow vitiligo and poliosis has been reported. 44 laser sessions were required for the treatment, which resulted in a 75 percent improvement. However, as this is only one instance that requires intensive treatment, additional research is required.

2.

Does Poliosis Spread?

Once a person has it, the spread of poliosis is rare. Even though poliosis is a condition that lasts a lifetime, you can easily hide it if you want to.

3.

What Happens in Poliosis?

The condition known as poliosis, also known as poliosis circumscripta, is characterized by the presence of a white streak in the hair that is distinct from the natural color of the hair. This can affect the skin and hair on any part of the body, including the eyelashes and eyebrows.

4.

How Does Poliosis Develop?

Low amounts of melanin and melanocytes in the hair follicle bring about poliosis. Melanocytes are the cells that produce melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin and hair color. Poliosis is generally divided into two categories: inherited and hereditary.

5.

Is Poliosis Curable?

Some medical treatments can get rid of poliosis. A 2013 study found that poliosis and vitiligo could be reversed with skin grafting and light therapy for 4 to 11 months. Laser therapy sessions, the daily application of an ointment, and daily oral medication were all part of the treatment. 75 percent of the eyebrow's color had been restored six months after the treatment began and after 44 laser therapy sessions.

6.

Can Poliosis Be Reversed?

The color of poliosis-affected hair cannot be permanently altered. However, dyeing hair is a relatively simple and inexpensive way to hide hair lightening. Using a kit at home or going to a hair salon can help.

7.

How to Hide Poliosis?

White hair streaks or patches are symptoms of poliosis. Most people with poliosis may decide not to seek medical treatment and instead dye or let their hair grow naturally. Hats, bandanas, headbands, and other hair coverings are options for people who do not want to dye their hair to hide their poliosis.

8.

What Causes Poliosis?

Poliosis, according to some, is brought on by psychological trauma, physical shock, or other stressful experiences. However, experts assert that these assertions are false. Although the true causes of poliosis are still unknown, experts believe that they probably include the following:
 - Autoimmune disease. 
 - Genetics. 
 - Damage to hair follicles.

9.

Can Poliosis Cause Blonde Hair?

White streaks or patches on the hair are typically the results of poliosis. But some individuals may also notice blonde streaks or patches.

10.

Is Poliosis a Disorder?

Poliosis is a late side effect of Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease (VKH). VKH is an inflammatory condition that has an impact on numerous body systems. These include the skin, central nervous system, ears, and eyes.

11.

How Does Poliosis Affect the Body?

A white streak or patch in the hair is the main sign of poliosis. It can cause patches on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes, arms, and surrounding skin and scalp. If poliosis is part of another condition, one might only notice a small patch of white hair or many other symptoms.
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Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav
Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav

Venereology

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