Background Diffuse alopecia areata or canities subita is a rare variant of alopecia in which hair loss is associated with regrowth of white hairs and possible lightening of the skin. Preferential loss of pigmented hair in this disorder may be related to the melanin pigment system and/or melanocytes. Acquired generalized anhidrosis can be associated with autoimmune disease, cancer, graft-vs-host disease, or medications or can be idiopathic. Extensive anhidrosis may cause hyperpyrexia on exposure to heat, and protection from overheating is essential.
Observations A 38-year-old man with idiopathic autoimmune aplastic anemia developed permanent diffuse skin and hair whitening and generalized anhidrosis after a successful allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Results of a histopathologic examination, which has previously not been reported in this disease, demonstrated a complete lack of epidermal and follicular melanocytes and a dense perifollicular and periadnexal lymphocytic infiltrate.
Conclusions The hair- and skin-lightening phenomena in diffuse alopecia areata may be the result of an overstimulated immune system that targets epidermal and follicular melanocytes. Destruction results in irreversible pigmentary loss of the skin. In a patient with multiple risk factors for anhidrosis, a specific cause may be difficult to determine.