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Senior Health

Sudden gray hair

02/09/2001

Question:

Could sudden graying be something that could be related to another health problem? I am age 55. My hair has been probably gradually graying over the last 15 yrs. I have been dying it, so the most I see at once is about 1" when it grows out. The temples have been completely gray for some time. However, my hair dresser and I noticed that the new growth on the top probably switched from "salt and pepper" to suddenly fully gray in less than 6 weeks. Since the last dying it had grown out about 1" to 1/4". About 1/4 to 1/8 is "salt and pepper" and the rest is solidly gray.

Can stress cause more rapid graying or is that a wives tale? I have had lots of stress this year related to my health and that of my husband, have no known systemic problems, but am scheduled for additional orthopaedic surgery this spring.

Answer:

Unfortunately, the graying of hair is geneticaly determined, and is not associated with life events or stress. Gray hair can begin to develop normally in adults anytime after age 20. The course that you describe seems well within what I would consider normal graying.

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Response by:

Elizabeth Joyner Gothelf, BSN, MAG Elizabeth Joyner Gothelf, BSN, MAG
Assistant Director
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati

Gregg   Warshaw, MD Gregg Warshaw, MD
Director, Office of Geriatric Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati