Is Poliosis Rare?

Medically Reviewed on 11/1/2021
Poliosis is a rare condition that is thought to affect between 1 in 40,000 and 1 in 100,000 Caucasian people.

Poliosis, sometimes called poliosis circumscripta, is the lack or absence of melanin in the head hair, scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, or other hairy regions in the body and can affect both kids and adults. While poliosis itself is not a harmful condition, it may be related to other clinical issues. Some of these issues could be harmful, whereas some are not.

Poliosis is a rare, uncommon condition and the incidence is unclear. However, it is thought to be between 1:40,000 and 1:100,000 among Caucasians. There is no difference in incidence between men and women or across ethnic groups, but the disease is more visible and noticeable in people with darker skin.

What are the symptoms of poliosis?

Poliosis is not difficult to identify. It appears as white or gray patches or spots in any area of the body that has hair. It is most easily identified when it affects the head.

Many people can have poliosis from birth, or it might show up unexpectedly at other stages in life.

What are the causes of poliosis?

While the causes of poliosis are not completely understood, researchers say the reasons for it may include:

  • Genetic conditions, such as
    • Tuberous sclerosis
    • Piebaldism
    • Waardenburg syndrome
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Damage to hair follicles

Medicines that could trigger poliosis pigmentation include the antibiotic, chloramphenicol, and the anticancer medication, cetuximab.

How is poliosis diagnosed?

The presence of white or gray patches of hair follicles is sufficient to analyze the condition. Contrarily, if poliosis seems to be affecting a child, it is best to see the doctor. While poliosis can happen at any stage in life, light or white hair is rare in kids.

4 conditions associated with poliosis

Poliosis itself is not harmful. It can, in any case, show up alongside different conditions that pose a health risk. Hence, it can be an early symptom of more serious medical problems.

Some of the medical conditions that poliosis may show up alongside include:

  1. Skin conditions
  2. Eye conditions
  3. Inflammatory disease
    • Poliosis is known to happen as a late result of Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease (VKH). 
    • VKH is an inflammatory disorder that affects various systems throughout the body. These reach from the eyes and ears to the skin and central nervous system.
    • VKH is more normal in darker-skinned individuals, particularly Asians.
  4. Thyroid problem
    • People with poliosis are at a higher risk of thyroid and autoimmune diseases.

How is poliosis treated?

It is impossible to permanently change the shade of the hair affected by poliosis. If a person wishes to make their poliosis less obvious, the basic and economical choice is to color the hair that has been lightened by the condition.

However, some clinical treatments can reverse poliosis.

  • A skin grafting treatment, followed by light therapy for 4 to 11 months, has been found to reverse poliosis combined with vitiligo.
  • The treatment included laser treatment therapy, daily application of the ointment, and everyday oral medicine.
  • These therapies are very intense, expensive, and time-consuming.
  • Thus, most people with poliosis may decide not to seek clinical medicines, rather let the hair be as it is.


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Medically Reviewed on 11/1/2021
Image Source: Wikipedia

Sleiman R, Kurban M, Succaria F, Abbas O. Poliosis circumscripta: overview and underlying causes. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2013 Oct;69(4):625-33.

DermNet New Zealand. Poliosis.