Hair Loss - Causes and How it’s Treated?

Hair Loss - Causes and How it’s Treated?

For centuries, hair loss has dreaded people around the world. It is a common phenomenon and not limited to any particular race or culture. Today, in the glitzy and glamorous world, this has become a troubling concern for many adult males and females.

Highlights

  • Mostly prevalent in older adults, hair loss is a common condition that affects both males and females
  • Hair loss is due to variety of factors including family history, age, and illness
  • Medications are the most common options while surgeries are also widely preferred

Hair Loss

Hair loss or baldness typically means hair loss from the scalp but it can affect other body parts as well. It is most prevalent in older adults but excessive hair loss can also occur in children. Hairs are made up of keratin, a protein produced in hair follicles of the outer layer of the skin.

As these follicles produce new hair cells every day, the old one's cells are replaced or pushed out through the surface. There are about 100,000 hairs on your head and it is quite normal to lose 50 to 100 hairs a day.

Some may lose more hair than normal and it’s almost impossible to count the amount of hair loss in a single day. If you are noticing more than normal hair loss, it’s time to consult a doctor.

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What causes hair loss?

Each hair follicle has its own life cycle that can be affected by a person’s age, disease, genetics, and variety of other factors. Hair loss can be temporary or permanent, depending on different factors.

Experts are still clueless as to why certain follicles have shorter life cycles than others. However, there are several factors that can influence hair loss in a person:

Hormones

Certain hormonal changes affect hair loss in both men and women. In women, hair fall could occur due to pregnancy, childbirth, discontinuation of birth pills or the onset of menopause. In some people, thyroid problem can cause hair loss.

Genetics

A person having a family history of hair loss is also predisposed to the condition. This type of hair loss is known as male-female pattern baldness. It is characterized by receding hairline or bald spot in men while thinning of hairs on women.

Drugs

Medication such as chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer, blood pressure; blood thinning, arthritis and birth control pills can also cause temporary hair loss. Too much vitamin A intake is also linked to hair loss.

Illnesses

Stress or some physical or emotional shock can cause noticeable hair loss. Extreme weight loss, high fever, and childbirth can also cause hair loss. Ringworm infection can also invade hairs on the scalp leading to scaly patches.

Hair-pulling disorder

Also known as trichotillomania, it is a psychological disorder in which a person tends to pull out his own hair. It is commonly seen in children and typically, head and eyebrows are affected.

Cosmetic procedures

Excess of shampooing, bleaching, and dyeing of hair can greatly contribute to thinning of hair, making them weak and brittle. Certain hair styling or treatment methods that pull the hair tight or applying tight ponytails can cause traction hair loss. Hot oil treatments can cause inflammation, resulting in hair loss.

Diet

A diet low in protein and nutrients or severely calorie-restricted diet can lead to temporary hair loss.

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Autoimmune disease

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which body’s immune system attack hair follicles. It can cause complete hair loss or round bald patches on the scalp or any other part of the body. In most of the cases, hair grows back.

Treatment for hair loss

Medication is the first course of action against hair loss. In fact, effective treatments for some types of hair loss are available. Some conditions may not need any treatment such as alopecia in which the hair grows back within a year. Here we briefly mention some of the treatments:

Medications

  • Over the counter medications in the form of topical creams and gels can be applied directly to the scalp. The most common ingredient in these medications is Minoxidil (Rogaine). Your doctor may recommend some additional medication in conjunction with minoxidil. Possible side effects may include unwanted hair growth in adjacent area and scalp irritation.
  • There are also prescribed drugs such as Finasteride (Propecia) that has to be taken orally. This is usually prescribed for male-pattern baldness and to slow the hair loss. Some people may experience new hair growth while taking Finasteride. There are rare side effects associated with this drug such as prostate cancer and reduced sex drive.
  • Doctor may also prescribe corticosteroids medicines such as prednisone to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation.

Surgery  

Hair transplant

It can restore most of the hair disappeared from the scalp. This surgery involves removing tiny plugs of skin, each plug containing a few hairs, from the fertile area of your scalp and then implanting them to the bald parts.

This method works well for those who are suffering from hereditary baldness since they typically lose the top portion of the head. This type of surgery can be costly, painful and you might need multiple surgeries or sessions over the time to restore your lost hair.

Scalp Reduction techniques

In this procedure, a part of your scalp that lacks hair is removed and replaced by the one which has hair. In another method, the hair filled scalp is folded over the bald patch.

In tissue expander technique, the surgeon places a tissue expander under the hair-filled scalp which is close to the bald spot. In a few weeks of time, new skin cells grow, spreading over the bald spot.

Risks involved in Surgical procedure

The surgical techniques for treating baldness might cause several side effects including:

  • Scarring
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Patchy hair growth

Can we prevent hair loss?

  • Avoid embracing tight hairstyles or ponytails that puts pressure on the hair
  • Avoid pulling, rubbing or twisting your hair
  • Take a balanced diet rich in iron and protein
  • When washing your hair, treat them gently
  • Avoid using styling products such as hot rollers, heated combs, blow dryers and bleaching agents

It is vital to understand that hair loss is a part of body’s natural process of renewal. Some types of hair loss can subside over the time while some other needs proper care and treatment for restoration. Consult a dermatologist and explore your options.

Sources

1. Ramos PM and Miot HA.(2015).Female Pattern Hair Loss: a clinical and pathophysiological review.doi:  10.1590/abd1806-4841.20153370 read more
2. Hair loss. (2014, November) read more 
3. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, July 06). Hair loss
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