Monday June 16 2014

Why are my eyelashes greying?

Dear Doctor: I know that like many Ugandans, when one gets grey hair, he or she is ageing. That said, all my hair is black, except the one on my eyes yet I am not that old. What could be the problem?

Bright Asiimwe

Dear Bright: Usually, White people start going grey in their mid-30s, Asians in their late 30s, and Blacks in their mid 40s.

However, many Africans are greying earlier today. The age we start greying depends on genetics, though lifestyle factors like smoking, general poor nutrition, untreated thyroid conditions, using electric dryers and concentrated hair dyes can eventually speed up the rate of greying.

In rare cases, however, greying can indicate a disease condition such as anaemia, hormonal imbalance, vitiligo, thyroid problems (hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism) or genetic disorders and can happen during or after chemotherapy and radiation.

Hair is made of keratin, a protein made by cells called keratinocytes. The skin has black pigment cells (melanocytes), which give hair the black pigment.

The protein kick-starts a chain reaction, which helps melanocytes give hair the black pigment.

Hair goes grey when the protein goes missing in the melanocyte original cells (stem cells) and the melanocytes stop producing pigment.

Wear and tear on our bodies leads to accumulation of high levels of hydrogen peroxide building up in the roots of our hair, blocking the production of the pigment as well. And so it is normal for hair to grey with old age.

Sometimes even without ageing, the melanocytes fail to function normally, hence leading to premature greying as early as the 20s.

In men, greying usually starts at the beard, then moustache, side locks or temples, and spreads to other parts of the head over time. Chest hair turns grey only a few years later and eyelashes a decade or two afterwards.
This is the reason why any person sporting grey eyelashes is thought to be in the 70s or more.
For women, grey hair starts from the temples, then it spreads to the sides.
Though generally, going grey by itself does not mean one has a medical problem (except in rare cases), eyelashes that grey early like in your case may indicate a medical problem like albinism, Vitiligo (white patches), or blepharitis (inflamed eyelids).

Therefore, you need to see a doctor to check for and manage a medical problem if found.

Many people dye their eyelashes instead of consulting a doctor and only seek help when the condition has shown other symptoms. Most times, this is when it has become difficult to treat.

Dear Doctor: There are pimples on my penis and I am scared of them. Sometimes, they get big, other times they are small and surround the lower head of the penis. I will appreciate any advice on how to cure them. Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: If the pimples are at the lower part of the head of the penis, in one or two rows, they are likely to be what is called coronal papillae or hirsuties coronae glandis. Felines, especially domestic cats, have penile spines, which rub the female cat genitals for intense sexual pleasure and quick ejaculation apart from inducing ovulation.

In human beings, the spines have been lost but remained in many people as pimples surrounding the base of the head of the penis where they may at times become more prominent but are harmless.

Though sometimes confused with venereal warts, the pimples are not a sexually transmitted infection and are not contagious.

They are mere anatomical variations so that some people, especially the non-circumcised or Blacks, have them.
Some people have tried to remove the pimples for cosmetic reasons using “burning” creams, or traditionally Euphemia Tirucalli (olukoni) and have ended up with ghastly scars.
They, therefore, merit no treatment. That said, treatment should be reserved for patients who are highly distressed by the appearance of this very common and benign entity.
Dear Doctor: Why can’t my candida heal? I have had it for about a year now. I have been told to use pessaries but it hasn’t healed. What can I do?

Rachel
Dear Rachel : Candida is a small organism that lives in the mouth, the intestines, on the skin, or even the vagina, without causing health problems.
However, conditions that disturb candida’s livelihood in the vagina can turn it to a monster.

Candida vaginal infections are common with women who have diabetes, conditions that reduce immunity like advanced HIV infection, are on contraceptive pills, are pregnant, are on long term treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics or steroids, use antiseptic soaps or lotions to wash the inside of the vagina, and sometimes without any cause. Some women get candida prior to their menstruation.

Candida infection can be recurrent in those who think they have a serious infection and over-wash their genitals or self-prescribe strong antibiotics.

Sometimes, what you call a recurrence might be due to overgrowth of the vaginal bacteria, (bacterial vaginosis) or those bacteria that produce vaginal acid (cytolytic vaginosis) both which may cause copious vaginal discharges, burning and itching.

Treatment, therefore, requires addressing the above, apart from avoiding self-medication and visiting your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Cutting down on sugars, wearing cotton panties and drying yourself properly after a bath or passing urine, will also help a great deal. Getting treatment will help get rid of candida too.

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