Early gray hair can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'very minor' to 'serious'. Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.
Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms. In order to diagnose early gray hair, we could:
If you have gray hair, choose the answer that best describes the graying process in your case. Hair graying is both genetic and age-related.
Possible responses:→ I have no hair / no gray hair / don't know
→ It retained its natural color longer than expected
→ It has grayed normally for my age and race
→ Somewhat prematurely (over half gray before 45)
→ Very prematurely (over half gray before 35)
Premature graying of hair is associated with other features of accelerated aging such as faster bone loss. A study of 293 postmenopausal women has confirmed that early hair graying and greater bone loss tend to occur together. The lower bone density was especially apparent in the hip region.
The authors found that when they adjusted bone mineral density for age and weight, there was a clear connection between the age of onset of hair graying and bone density. "Age- and weight-adjusted bone mineral density (BMD) was significantly lower in those with the majority of their hair graying during their thirties compared with those in whom it occurred in their forties." Premature hair graying before the age of 40 was associated with a lower BMD at most skeletal sites. Also, women who started graying extremely early in life, already in their twenties, had lower bone density than those who started graying in their thirties. [J Clin Endo Metab 1997; 82: pp.3580-3]
In an earlier report, doctors in Maine showed that people with gray hair by age 40 are 4.4 times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis. [J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1994; 79: pp.854-7]
Hair graying results when melanocytes stop producing melanin, the same pigment that darkens our skin to protect us from UV radiation. Sex steroids such as estrogens and progesterone stimulate the function of melanocytes. Also, premature hair graying is less frequent in ethnic groups, notably blacks, who also tend to have higher testosterone levels in both sexes. [J Clin Endo Metab 1997; 82: pp.3580-83]