Hair grows everywhere on the human body except for the palms and the soles of your feet. Hair is made of a protein called keratin. Keratin is made by follicles present all over the body. Hair loss is a very common problem and happens to almost every person at least once. A person loses about 100 of hair in a day, a few strands of hair in a hairbrush or a comb should not be a cause for worry. There are three phases of hair growth:
Anagen phase is the active hair growth phase. It can last from two to six years. The hair grows 1 centimetre each month in this phase. About 80% to 90% of the hair on an individual’s head is in the anagen phase.
Catagen Phase: Catagen phase is the renewal phase or the transition phase for the follicle. This phase lasts about two weeks.
Telogen Phase: Telogen phase is the resting phase for the follicle. It lasts for two to three months and at the end of the telogen phase, the hair falls and a new hair replaces it.
Hair loss is known as alopecia and there are several different types of alopecia ranging from loss of hair in just one area or part of the body to loss of hair in the whole body. The types of Alopecia include:
Involutional Alopecia is the most common type of alopecia that occurs in almost every person’s body. Involutional Alopecia is a natural condition where the hair of the body thins down due to the decay of age. In this type of alopecia, more follicles start going into the telogen phase or the resting phase more often, and the hair becomes less in number and shorter due to the short growth rate of follicles. The thin-out process also gets faster due to several diseases, genetic issues or improper nutrition. The hair becomes too weak to continue growing normally because of involutional alopecia. Involutional alopecia cannot be reversed naturally. However, taking the right nutritive compounds in the right amounts may help the follicles grow normally for sometimes.
Androgenic Alopecia is a genetic condition and not natural. Androgenic Alopecia affects both men and women. This condition is called male pattern baldness in men. Men begin losing hair as early as their teens or early 20s. It can be characterised by the disappearance of hair from the frontal scalp and the crown and a receding hairline. In women, this condition is known as female pattern baldness. Women don’t experience any noticeable changes until they are 40 years old. In women, it is characterised by general thinning of hair on the entirety of the scalp and extensive loss of hair in the middle of the crown.
Alopecia Areata begins very suddenly and causes patchy loss of hair in young adults and children. In 90% of the cases, the hair grows back in a few years. But in a few cases, this might result in complex baldness or alopecia totalis. Alopecia totalis is a complete loss of hair from the scalp or a completely bald head.
Alopecia Universalis causes complete loss of hair from the whole body, unlike alopecia totalis which is limited to just the head. Alopecia Universalis even includes eyebrows, pubic hair and eyelashes falling off.
Trichotillomania is a psychological condition most prevalent in children. This condition causes the person to have an irresistible urge to pull out hair, usually from eyelashes, scalp and eyebrows. People with this condition know that they can hurt themselves but still cannot stop themselves from pulling out hair.
Telogen is the resting phase of the follicles. Telogen effluvium means temporary thinning of hair. It occurs because of the hair growth cycle of many hair changes. Hair enters the telogen phase or the resting phase together. This causes hair shedding and thinning of hair for some time.
Scarring alopecia is a permanent loss of hair from a part of the body. Many diseases or skin conditions such as acne, cellulitis or folliculitis or skin disorders such as lichen planus or lupus cause scars that can destroy the regeneration abilities of the hair in and around that area of the body.
Because loss of hair is of many types it is really hard to determine the actual cause. Mostly hair loss is not associated with diseases or conditions or poor nutritional diet. In most cases, hair just begins thinning and shedding due to genetic factors and due to the ageing of the body. Both men and women start noticing the minor physiological loss of hair by their 30s or 40s. Hormonal changes such as in puberty or during pregnancy may also result in hair loss. Emotional trauma, protein deprivation or illness can also result in thinning or loss of hair.
Severe injuries sustained can also the hinder the ability of the hair around the area of injury from growing. Skin conditions such as cellulitis or folliculitis and fungal infections on the skin such as Tinea Capitis which takes place in the scalp can also cause loss of hair. Sexually transmitted disease such as syphilis may result in hair loss.
Usage of various medications and drugs can cause hair loss. Medications such as the ones for high blood pressure problems, heart disease, diabetes and cholesterol cause the loss of hair in the body. Also, any medication, therapy or drugs that can affect the body’s hormones such as steroids, contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy can cause loss of hair. Treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy and some treatments for mycotic infections can cause massive hair loss. Side effects of birth control pills and anabolic steroids can cause loss of hair as well. Medical conditions such as thyroid diseases, anaemia, eating disorders and iron deficiency can cause the hair to fall off as well. After the treatment of the problems, the hair usually will grow back in most cases unless there is scarring on the skin.
Traumas such as childbirth, poisoning, major surgery and high stress can cause hair to enter the resting phase causing telogen effluvium and subsequent shedding of hair. Trichotillomania is a condition in children which causes them to act on the impulse to pull out their hair. Due to the constant extraction of hair roots, this can cause permanent hair loss as well.
Use of cosmetic products such as shampoos and conditioners can also cause hair loss in some cases. Cosmetic reconstruction can also cause loss of hair. Pregnancy and childbirth also cause the loss of hair in females.
Basic health screening or medical check-ups can be conducted by your family doctors and physicians. In case of severe loss of hair, dermatologists are suggested by the doctors. The dermatologists specialise in problems related to hair, skin and nails. The dermatologists will provide a more advanced treatment and diagnosis regarding the type of hair loss you may have. The dermatologists will first characterise your hair loss into one of the given types and then on the basis of the characterisation, they will prescribe you the necessary medications or conduct the necessary surgeries or tests. In some cases, scalp biopsy is also done.
There are many proven treatments and medications that help in the growth of hair. There are also many products from many different brands claiming they help in nourishing the hair and help in the growth of hair. Although, none of these products has provided any concrete proof or facts to back their claims up. These products are mostly harmless but since they are not scientifically proven they will work the same as any normal shampoo or conditioner would. The treatments to reduce hair loss or help in the growth of hair are as follows:
The doctors suggest medications to slow down the loss of hair. If the patient stops taking these medications, their condition will not get worse. But, they will revert back to the condition they were in before the usage of the medications. These medications include.
Minoxidil (Rogaine): No prescription is required for this medication. Minoxidil is available over the counter and can be used by both women and men. It is most efficient on the crown than on the frontal scalp. Minoxidil may help in growing the hair again, but its the main purpose is to hold the hair already on the body from falling off. There are few or no side effects of this medication. It has to be applied once or twice a day. If applied inadvertently on the neck or the face, it may result in unwanted hair growth in those areas.
Finasteride (Propecia): Finasteride is a medication used by men with androgenic loss of hair. It classified in medications known as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. It reduces or blocks the functions of the hormones present in the follicles of the scalp. This reduces the hair loss from the scalp. Propecia can possibly grow hair in a good amount for many people, but its the main purpose is to hold the hair that is already there. Women should avoid this medication as it affects childbirth. Possible side effects of this medications include reduced libido or sex drive and impotence. These side effects are reversible with the stoppage in use of the drug.
Hair fabric powder is a coloured powder substance that is sprinkled on the patches where there is no hair. This camouflages the patches with the hair. The powder has special properties that help it stick to the hair and give the scalp an appearance of being full of hair. These can be bought without a prescription and are mostly harmless but expensive. Hair pieces or hair weaves can also be used as temporary measures. Hair weaves and hairpieces have been used for a very long time in history. A mesh is attached to the existing remaining hair. Artificial hair or actual hair of the same texture and the same colour as the existing hair are then attached. The quality of the hair pieces varies depending on the prices. The hair weaves or the hair pieces may get oxidised and stretched or may get loosened up with extended use.
Surgeries for hair restoration include various types of hair transplants such as removing hair from the rear scalp and bringing it to the front of the scalp or reduction of the scalp, which means that the bald patches are cut away and the remaining scalp is stitched together. Transplant procedures have improved drastically in recent years. The hair transplant of the recent times can generate natural looking and more attractive hair than it did in the past. The transplant patients use Propecia or minoxidil to keep the hair that was transplanted. It is advised that before getting a hair transplant, the surgeon's experience and credentials should be thoroughly examined. Hair transplant is a very expensive procedure and a very long one too.
There are also many other tools or devices that stimulate hair growth in the scalp. Low-level laser devices which are approved by the FDA can be used for male pattern hair loss. These devices can be used at home for self-treatment after being prescribed by the doctor. They can be in the form of a comb, a hat or a helmet. These devices can be cheap or expensive depending on the brand and the quality of the product.
A daily diet with a multivitamin containing iron, vitamin B, folate, calcium and zinc are suggested by the doctors although there is no evidence of vitamins benefitting against alopecia. Newer studies suggest that vitamin D may be helpful in the prevention of hair loss.
Maintaining good hair hygiene by shampooing and conditioning hair properly on regular basis is one of the basic steps in preventing hair loss. Although, this might not prove of much help as well.
Regular medical check-ups and appointments with your doctors or physician also help in the prevention of hair loss and other problems that might result in loss of hair from the body.
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