Hair loss can affect both men and women sometimes affecting not just the scalp but the whole body. Normally most people shed 50 to 100 hairs a day, but this loss is not noticeable as new hair is growing at the same time thus nullifying the affect. Hair loss occurs when the hair growth cycle is disrupted or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.
Some of the common causes include
- Heredity hair loss with age ( most common)
- Hormonal changes
- Medical conditions
Excessive hair loss from one’s scalp is referred to as baldness.
Hair loss can present itself in many ways depending on its cause. Its onset can be sudden or gradual affecting just the scalp or the whole body. Some forms of hair loss are temporary while the others are permanent.
Some commonly seen ones include
- Male pattern baldness
- Female pattern baldness
- Patchy hair loss (alopecia areata)
- Traction alopecia
Clinically presenting features of Hair Loss
- Gradual thinning on top of head: This is the most common type affecting both men and women as they age. Men: Often hair begins to recede from the forehead in the shape of letter ‘M’. Women: No hair loss is seen at the forehead but a broadening of their hair can be noticed overall.
- Circular or patchy bald spots.
- Sudden loosening of hair: A physical or emotional shock can cause the hair to loosen and fall out even with a mild force. This phenomenon usually affects the whole scalp and doesn’t occur in patches.
- Full Body hair loss: Cancer and chemotherapy and conditions like them may result in a hair loss all over the body. The hair usually grows back after treating the underlying conditions or after the course of chemotherapy.
- Scaly patches over the scalp are a sign of ring worm infection. They may be accompanied by broken hair, redness, swelling and occasionally oozing.
There are various causes for hair loss. In general, human beings shed 50 to 100 hairs a day, but this hair loss is not noticeable as new growth takes place at the same time. But, when the rate of shedding increases compared to the rate of growth, hair loss becomes apparent. The following factors play a role in Hair loss:
- Family history (heredity)
- Certain Medications
- Medical disease conditions
- Hormonal changes
TESTS AND DIAGNOSIS
- Blood test: To rule out medical conditions related to hair loss such as Thyroid disease.
- Pull Test: The doctor gently pulls dozens of hairs out to test if they are separating easily from the scalp and to determine the stage of the shedding process.
- Scalp Biopsy: This is done by carefully scraping skin around the area of hair loss and also by examining the plucked hairs. This helps in ruling out any infectious causes.
- Light Microscopy: Hairs trimmed at their bases are examined under a microscope to examine the hair shaft for any disorders
TREATMENTS AND DRUGS
Some forms of hair loss can be effectively treated but the others can be permanent. In patchy alopecia, treatment is usually not necessary and hair may regrow within a year.
Depending on the cause a suitable treatment may be employed and the doctor may suggest a combination of these for effective treatment:
- Minoxidil: This is an over the counter drug which can be used by both men and women and one will be able to notice a hair regrowth, a slower rate of hair loss or both. The peak effect can be seen after 16 weeks of continuous treatment and the course should be continued to retain the effect.
- Possible side effects: scalp irritation, unwanted hair growth on the adjacent facial skin and hands, rapid heart rate.
- Finasteride: This is a prescription medication meant only for men. People taking it experience a slowing of hair loss and in some new hair growth. The medication needs to be taken continuously for to retain its benefits.
Rare side effects include diminished sex drive, sexual function and an increased risk of prostate cancer. Women who are or may be pregnant should refrain from touching crushed or broken tablets.
Read more at our “Hair Transplantation” Page
Hair transplantation surgery makes the most of the hair you have left. The surgeon takes a piece of scalp with hair from a suitable area in your scalp and surgically transplants them into the deficient area.
This method is still in its developmental stages and more studies are needed at this point to determine its effectiveness.
Wigs and Hairpieces
In instances where one doesn’t respond to medical treatment, they can opt for a wig or a hair piece. They help cover temporary or permanent hair loss.
Tips to prevent hair loss
- Take a well-balanced, Nutritious Diet
- Avoid tight hairstyles like braids and pony tails
- Handle your hair gently while washing or brushing, a wide toothed comb can help in this regard.
- Avoid rollers, curling irons, hot oil treatments and permanents which are often harsh on your hair.