Why are my eyelashes greying?

Eyelashes may turn grey for many reasons; some natural, and others as a result of medical conditions or genetic disorders.

Monday June 16 2014

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.

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