Hair Loss

1 What is Hair Loss?

Hair loss or alopecia is a common condition that affect both men and women alike.

A number of factors like heredity, some diseases, hormonal changes, and certain medications may cause loss of hair.

The loss may be partial or complete. Extreme hair loss or baldness is more common among men than in women.

The most common cause of hair loss is the one associated with heredity and age.

Most causes of hair loss can be treated or prevented. The condition is often disregarded and not taken seriously. 

2 Symptoms

The most common symptoms of hair loss are:

  • Thinning of hair – thinning happens on top of head and is very common among men and women. In men thinning follows a specific pattern starting from the forehead. But in women, hairline in forehead region is retained.
  • Patchy hair – some people develop small patches of baldness, particularly in scalp. In rare cases bald spots may be seen in eyebrows and beards.
  • Sudden hair loss – sudden emotional shocks may lead to sudden loss of hair. This leads to overall thinning of hair.
  • Full body hair-loss – certain medical conditions and treatments result in complete hair loss in the body. Chemotherapy is one such treatment that cause full body-hair loss. Hair lost due to treatment and medication usually grow back after a period of time.
  • Scaling and patchiness – ring worm infection cause scaling that spread on the scalp. Infection is also characterized by reddishness, swelling, and breaking of hair.

Hair loss may be limited to a small part or spread throughout the body. In some people it has a sudden onset, while in others the loss may be gradual.

Hair loss can be either temporary as in cancer treatment or permanent. 

3 Causes

The most common causes of hair loss are:

  • Heredity – there are two types of hereditary hair loss – male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness. Male pattern hair loss is characterized by a receding hair line in the forehead and bald spots in the scalp. Thinning of hair due to hair loss is the characteristic of female pattern baldness. Age at which the baldness sets in depends on heredity. It also influences the extent and rate of hair loss.
  • Hormonal changes and medical conditions – pregnancy, menopause, and childbirth are associated with hormonal changes and hair loss.
  • Thyroid problems also lead to loss of hair. Patchy hair loss happens when immune system attacks the hair follicles. Skin infections, like ring worm, leads to scaly patches on scalp.
  • Many other skin disorders that affect the hair follicles result in hair loss and bald spots.Lichen planus, lupus, and sarcoidosis lead to hair loss.
  • Mental disorder called trichotrillomania, characterized by an urge to pull hair, also result in hair loss from scalp or eyebrows.
  • Medications – medications used to treat cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, and birth control are known to cause hair loss.
  • Other causes – certain hairstyles, radiation therapy, and a sudden emotional shock may all lead to hair loss.

Under normal conditions, new hair grows and covers the space, thus making hair loss unnoticeable. Hair loss occurs when the hair loss is more than newly formed hair.

Hair loss may also occur when the hair follicle is replaced by scar tissue. 

The major risk factors for hair loss include heredity, age, certain medications, and stress.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Evaluation of medical history and family history, and physical examination are the first steps in the diagnosis of hair loss.

Blood test helps to identify conditions like thyroid problems that cause hair loss.

Infection that result in hair loss is determined by scalp biopsy.

Disorders of hair shaft are assessed by light microscopy, in which hair is examined under a special instrument. 

5 Treatment

Treatment for hair loss depends on the cause of hair loss. Hair loss caused by certain medications and treatment do not need any specific treatment.

Hair regrows after a period of time after the treatment. Medications, surgery, and laser therapy are used to treat hair loss.

Medications – drugs that treat the underlying disease help to control hair loss. Prednisone is recommended when hair loss is caused by immune system imbalance. Minoxidil and finasteride are two medications often suggested for controlling pattern baldness. These drugs may trigger regrowth of hair or slow down hair loss.

Surgery – hair transplant is the most common surgical treatment suggested to control hair loss, particularly in the top of head. In this procedure, small patches of skin from the side of the scalp is implanted in the affected area. Medications are prescribed for use before and after the treatment.

Laser therapy – laser therapy is found to improve hair growth and slow down hair loss in people with this condition.

Wigs and hair pieces – these head accessories are suggested when one does not respond to any of the conventional treatment methods. It is also suggested to those people who do not opt for any other treatment methods.

6 Prevention

Several methods are used in order to prevent hair loss.

Having a balanced diet helps to provide adequate nutrition to the hair cells and keep them healthy.

Avoid harsh treatments on hair like rolling, curling irons, and hot oil treatments.

Keep hair cleaned and washed and treat them gently. 

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Silicea, kalium carbonicum, lycopodium, natrum muriaticum, phosphorus, and kali sulphuricum are the major homeopathic remedies for controlling hair loss.

Lavender oil combined with thyme, rosemary and cedar wood is an alternative remedy tried for hair loss. 

8 Lifestyle and Coping

It may be difficult to cope with hair loss for some people.

Talking to a counsellor may be of help.

Having a healthy lifestyle helps to slow down the loss of hair.

Support groups and online forums provide further information about hair loss and remedies. 

9 Risk and Complications

Hair loss may lead to emotional complications like depression.

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