Hair Loss

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Hair loss, known scientifically as alopecia, can be the result of a wide range of causes. Cicatricial alopecia refers to hair loss that occurs after the hair follicles are damaged, either through inflammation, or by physical means. This damage is permanent and creates scar tissue within the site of hair production, preventing any hair in the future from growing. Noncicatricial hair loss, however, leaves the hair follicle undamaged, suggesting that regrowth of the hair is possible in the future.

Characteristics of Excessive Hair Loss

Hair shedding is a normal part of the growth and development cycle of hair. Usually a hair follicle goes through a period of growth, shedding, and resting. You should not feel distressed if you find some hair falling out. If you have long hair, it may seem that the quantity of hair shed may be excessive; however, excessive hair loss is the loss of 100 or more strands of hair per day. This shedding may be noticed while combing hair, washing it, or in other ways like waking up to a pillow covered in hair. If you notice this excessive shedding, you should see a dermatologist in order to diagnose and treat your condition. The treatment may involve topical or oral administration of drugs, or may be just a change in diet.

Evidence of hair loss may be found through the following:

  • Hair loss when you run your fingers through your hair
  • Hair loss when combing hair
  • Hair in the shower drain after washing your hair
  • Hair in many strands on your pillow
  • Decrease in volume of hair
  • Visible patches of scalp
  • Causes of Hair Loss

    Hair loss is a condition with many causes. Some of these causes may be normal as your life progresses, while others can be due to an imbalance or disease. Here is a list of common causes of hair loss:

  • Genetic factors: Hair loss can be inherited from the father or mother, like male and female pattern baldness.
  • Lack of nutrients: A poor diet can lead to sharp drop in the production of hair. Inadequate intake of foods rich in protein as well as certain vitamins leave the body without the proper ingredients to grow hair.
  • Stress and anxiety: The emotional imbalance caused by stress and anxiety can cause hair loss. The good news is that once the stress is gone, the hair should return.
  • Use of chemicals: The use of unsuitable products on hair corrode the strands, leading to hair loss. Oils in the hair root are also washed away, leaving the root vulnerable.
  • Tight hairstyles: Hairstyles like braids or dread locks that are too tight pull on the hair and make it fall out. Additionally, intense brushing can weaken the scalp.
  • Postpartum and Menopause: Hormonal changes and stress can cause hair loss during these times in a woman’s life.
  • Anemia: The iron deficiency that causes anemia also effects hair production.
  • Fungal Infection: Usually occur on the scalp, leaving the region scaly, sensitive, and inflamed.
  • Environmental factors: Such as exposure to chlorine, wind, or heat
  • Reaction to medication use: The side effect of certain medications can lead to hair loss. Medicines that can cause hair loss include: warfarin, heparin, propiltiouracila, carbimazol, vitamin A, isotretinoin, acitretin, lithium, beta blockers, colchicine and amphetamines. Fortunately, after you stop taking these drugs, the hair grows back.
  • Alopecia areata: An autoimmune disease called alopecia areata is a condition that causes round patches of hair loss as your immune system attacks the follicles.
  • Noncicatricial Hair Loss

  • Scalp ringworm
  • Androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness)
  • Alopecia areata (spot baldness)
  • Medications such as warfarin, heparin, propiltiouracila, carbimazol, vitamin A, isotretinoin, acitretin, lithium, beta blockers, colchicine, amphetamines and cancer drugs
  • Stress
  • Postpartum hormonal reaction
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Dietary deficiency in protein, iron, zinc, and biotin
  • Cicatricial Hair Loss

  • Traumatic alopecia, like through braids or tight hairstyles
  • Lupus
  • Lichen planus
  • Linear scleroderma
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Cutaneous metastases
  • Diagnosis of Hair Loss

    The individual may be able to assess if his/her hair loss is normal or excessive, but to confirm the diagnosis of excessive hair loss, a consultation with a dermatologist is recommended. A dermatologist can order tests that may reveal the cause of the hair loss, and indicate the most appropriate treatment.

    When is Hair Loss Normal?

    Men: Hair loss is normal in men 45 years of age or older who have a genetic predisposition for balding.

    Women:  During pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding. More on female hair loss.

    Treatments for Hair Loss

    There are various types of treatments for hair loss. Deciding which to adhere to will depend on the cause. Your dermatologist will help you treat hair loss according to the condition that caused it.

    When hair loss is caused by diseases, imbalances, or deficiencies, once the condition is corrected, it should grow back, provided that there isn’t any scarring within the follicles. Drug treatments that may have caused hair loss may be discontinued when safe to do so, allowing for the hair to return. Iron-rich foods such as meat and eggs, as well as zinc supplements, may also facilitate hair growth.

    Here are some common causes of hair loss and their treatments:

  • Postpartum hair loss: Occurs because of hormonal fluctuations following pregnancy. This is a normal condition that occurs as your body’s hormone levels gradually return to pre-pregnancy levels. A diet rich in iron and zinc, such as meats and pineapples should help your hair remain healthy during this transition.
  • Medications: If hair loss occurs during the use of medications such as warfarin, heparin, propiltiouracila, carbimazol, retinol A, isotretinoin, lithium, colchicine, and amphetamine, inform your doctor about it. He or she will advise you if it is safe to stop or substitute the drug for one that does not cause hair loss as a side effect.
  • Receding hair line: Typical treatment is minoxidil, finasteride, or hair transplantation. Hair transplantation involves harvesting hair follicles from an area with healthy hair and transplanting it to an area where hair loss had occurred.
  • Alopecia areata: Treated with anthralin, tazarotene, or glucocorticoids.
  • Scalp ringworm: Use shampoo with selenium sulfide 2.5% or ketoconazole.
  • Traumatic alopecia: Change hairstyle, avoiding dreads, braids, and hair straightening treatments.
  • How to Prevent Hair Loss

    There are many things you can do to maintain the health of your hair and reduce the chance of it falling out. Foremost of these is a healthful diet with adequate vitamins and minerals, as well as protein. Unfortunately, hair loss may also be caused by heredity; despite a healthy diet and lifestyle your hair will fall out.

    Here is a list of things you can do to decrease the chance of hair loss:

  • Do not wash your hair with overly hot water.

  • When washing your hair, start from the end and work your way to the root.

  • Avoid hairstyles like dreadlocks and braids that pull on the hair root.

  • When combing the hair, use combs with wide bristles.

  • Do not go to sleep with wet hair.

  • Do not tie your hair when wet. After completely drying it, do not tie it too tight.

  • Avoid using dryers, straighteners, and chemicals that damage the hair's root and tips.

  • Wash your hair only when necessary. Daily washing strips your hair of its natural oils.

  • Look for shampoos and conditioners suited to your hair type that do not have harsh chemicals, and instead use natural and herbal ingredients.

  • After washing your hair, make sure to rinse well to remove all of the shampoo and conditioner. This prevents roots from becoming clogged.
  • Additionally, it is important to keep your stress level down and exercise regularly. Exercising promotes circulation, consequently leading to a well nourished and stronger hair that is more resistant to falling out. It is also important to note that hair loss is common in the early months of breastfeeding, after surgery, and in the case of hormonal disorders.

    Can Stress Cause Hair Loss?

    Stress has a wide range of effects on the body. Stress hormones may affect the skin, nails, and hair and change the way they function. One of these functions is the production of skin oils, which during stress increases and can aggravate conditions like dandruff. The function of hair growth itself can be altered during times of stress, resulting in hair loss.

    When you are stressed, your hair production may be hindered and hair that falls out and enters the rest phase of hair growth does not grow back right away. The accumulation of hair follicles suspended in that rest phase during stress means that the hair that is naturally falling out is not replaced. The thinning that results from this is stress induced hair loss.

    How to Minimize Stress Induced Hair Loss

    The best remedy for stress related hair loss is to get rid of the stress. Because this isn't always easy to accomplish, you can do things that will keep the hair follicles that are in the growth phase stay healthy:

  • Increase protein intake, and consider a supplement like hydrolyzed collagen.

  • Consider taking supplements of Vitamin A, C, D, and E as well as B complex, or eating vitamin rich foods.
  • Is Stress Induced Hair Loss Reversible?

    Fortunately, stress related hair loss is usually reversible. When your stress levels are reduced and your bodily functions return to normal, the hair follicles of your scalp that have entered the rest state will “awake” and begin to produce hair once again.

    Vitamins for Hair Loss

    Vitamins for hair loss are a great way to build up and strengthen hair from its root, preventing it from falling out and making it less brittle.Vitamins and minerals to grow healthy hair and prevent hair loss include:

  • Vitamin A: Involved in the production of sebum, which lubricates and protects hair
  • Vitamin B Complex: Biotin, niacin and B12 all play a role in promoting the growth of healthy hair.
  • Vitamin C: Besides being an antioxidant, it plays a vital role in collagen production, which is the protein found in hair.
  • Vitamin D: Promotes hair growth, and a deficiency of vitamin D causes hair loss.
  • Vitamin E: Improves scalp circulation.
  • Lysine: A building block of the protein found in hair.
  • Iron: Iron is essential to the transportation of oxygen to the scalp.
  • Zinc: Another important vitamin involves in hair production, a deficiency of which can cause hair loss.
  • Although the above substances will help with hair loss, taking too much of them may be harmful as well. Please consult with your health care practitioner on dosage and possible interactions with medication if you plan on taking them to prevent or reverse hair loss.

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