Melanins are the reason our hair has colour. Melanins are continuously released from melanocytes which are present at the openings on the skin’s surface, also known as hair follicles, through which hair grows.
With growing age, the melanocyte activity slows down or stops. Once the hair stops receiving the pigment, it starts to turn grey. It is an established fact that the hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, released when one is feeling stressed, allow the movement of melanocyte cells away from the hair follicle, causing premature greying of hair.
However, there are many other factors which can be responsible for premature greying of hair in both men and women too. Though doctors and scientists have not been able to find out the exact cause yet, here are a few conditions which can lead to premature greying of hair:
1. Genetic factor
If a person has a history of premature greying in their family, then they have a chance of getting grey hair earlier in life.
2. Nutritional deficiencies
Deficiency of minerals like iron and copper has been associated with premature greying of hair. It has also been reported that the deficiency of Vitamin B12 and vitamin B3 (niacin) is the reason behind most cases of premature greying of hair. Chronic protein loss seen in the case of diseases like kwashiorkor, nephrosis, and celiac disease is also one of the reasons for premature greying of hair.
There are some diseases such as vitiligo (immune cells attacking the colour producing cells of the body), neurofibromatosis (growth of tumours along the nerves) and hypothyroidism, which can lead to premature greying of hair.
When a group of symptoms appear together, the condition is called a syndrome. Syndromes like Book’s syndrome, Down syndrome and Werner’s syndrome are seen to have greying of hair as one of their symptoms.
Certain medications like chloroquine (used for malaria), mephenesin (a muscle relaxant), phenylthiourea (used in DNA testing), triparanol (used to reduce cholesterol), and dixyrazine (used to treat various psychiatric disorders) are known to cause grey hair. Application of topical medications like dithranol, chrysarobin and resorcinol (used for the treatment of psoriasis) may also cause premature greying of hair.
For more information, read our article on Grey hair.
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