Grey hair is not always a sign of ageing – pharmacist issues warning about ‘serious’ cause

How to reduce the appearance of grey hairs

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Everyone remembers the moment they first discovered a single strand of grey hair. For many people, it represents the beginning of the ageing process. According to Harvard Health, “your hair follicles produce less colour as they age, so when hair goes through its natural cycle of dying and being regenerated, it’s more likely to grow in as grey beginning after age 35”.

However, greying does not always have a benign cause.

According to Parvinder Sagoo, Lead Medical Advisor and Clinician at Simply Meds, it can be a sign of thyroid disease.

“Greying hair can also be a sign of thyroid disease, which is a serious condition which should be diagnosed as soon as possible,” Sagoo warned.

When your thyroid makes either too much or too little hormones, it’s called a thyroid disease.

“To try and prevent thyroid disease or thyroid issues you should ensure you are having enough protein, calcium, magnesium and iodine which all help your thyroid work,” advised Sagoo.

As he explained, vitamins B, A and C are also important.

According to Sagoo, a lack of vitamin B can also cause greying hair.

“A lack of vitamin B can cause hair to turn grey, this of course can be prevented or reversed if you ensure that you are having a good amount of vitamin B in your diet or taking supplements,” he said.

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Good sources of vitamin B are eggs and dairy, dark leafy vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts, meat (preferably red meat or poultry) and whole grains.

Other causes of greying

Occasionally, grey hair can signal vitiligo – a condition which is caused by the lack of the pigment known as melanin in the skin, medically known as melanocytes, notes Sagoo.

“This can cause white patches over your skin and hair, and may mean your hair becomes completely white or grey,” he explained.

According to Sagoo, there are a number of ways you can treat vitiligo and help prevent it.

These include using a broad spectrum sun protection factor (SPF), concealing affected parts of the skin and using various creams and ointments.

“Once the hair goes white however it will be difficult to reverse it,” added Sagoo.

What’s more, grey hair can be a symptom of an autoimmune disorder.

“Greying hair could also be a sign that you have alopecia areata, a common autoimmune disorder,” explained Sagoo.

Its causes are unknown so it’s hard to know how to prevent it.

“However, there are several factors as to why it occurs such as genetics, lifestyle factors and other skin conditions,” noted Sagoo.

Other possible causes include:

  • Neurofibromatosis (also called Von Recklinghausen’s disease): this group of inherited diseases causes tumours to grow along nerves and abnormal development of the bones and skin.
  • Tuberous sclerosis: an uncommon, inherited condition that causes benign tumours in multiple organs (including the brain, heart, kidneys, eyes, lungs, and skin).

“When and how thoroughly your hair turns grey is influenced mostly by the genes you inherit from your parents,” added Harvard Health.

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