"At the very bottom of the hair bulb there is a structure called the dermal papilla and also the matrix. In these areas there are many stem cells which are constantly dividing and making up the hair. There are also melanocytes which are not dividing but they inject melanin - colour pigments - into keratinocytes in the hair, so this makes the hair to grow in the melanin-defined colour. As long as the melanocytes are functioning properly, the hair grows in the determined colour. When they stop functioning, we lose hair pigment," she states.
"During Alopecia Areata white blood cells are attacking that same part of the hair follicle - the bulb. Therefore, cells stop dividing and there is hair loss. There is also no more hair growth until the attack stops. Melanocytes are in the same area and can only inject melanin during the active growth phase - the Anagen stage of the hair growth cycle - and are, therefore, also affected whilst these attacks are happening.
When the attack stops and the hair starts growing back, it often returns without any pigment. There can be a bit of a delay in the melanocytes starting to inject melanin again. However, as long as the hair loss condition is no longer active and the hair keeps growing within its normal cycle, regular functioning of the melanocytes should return, restoring the hair's previous pigmentation a short while later."
Reassuring anyone concerned by white hair following autoimmune alopecia, Bozhinova confirms, "This is normal and we see it with most Belgravia patients with Alopecia Areata, regardless of their age, weight or medical history. It is obviously less noticeable, however, to those whose hair is grey or white already."
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