Definition & Overview
Every person loses hair and in many circumstances, it is considered normal. Experts say that on average, individuals lose about fifty to a hundred of strands per day as the hair goes through its natural cycle to pave the way for the growth of new stands. However, excessive hair loss or alopecia in medical terminology, can be a sign of a more serious medical condition.
Types of Hair Loss
Androgenic alopecia, also referred to as pattern baldness, is used to define hair loss caused by genetic factors. It can affect men and women and can start happening during the late teens or early twenties.
Alopecia areata refers to conditions wherein a person suddenly experiences losing patches of hair for no apparent reason. This usually happens in teens and young adults. Around 90% of the people with this condition regain their lost hair in a few years. Unfortunately, the remaining percentage experience total baldness.
Involutional alopecia refers to the normal loss of hair due to aging.
Alopecia universalis is a condition where all body hair, including facial hair like eyebrows and eyelashes, fall out.
Trichotillomania is a psychological condition wherein the individual pulls out his/her own hair.
Causes of hair loss
Several different factors can trigger hair loss. Some of the most common, aside from skin conditions of the scalp and frequent styling, are the following:
Telegon effluvium – This refers to a condition where scalp hair thins temporarily due to changes in the hair growth cycle. This typically occurs after drastic weight loss, pregnancy, major surgery, or extreme stress. It can also be a side effect when taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, beta-blockers, and antidepressants.
Heredity – Individuals with family history of hair loss are at an increased risk of suffering from the same condition.
Iron deficiency anemia – When the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, which main job is to transport oxygen throughout the body, this results in different symptoms including hair loss, pale skin, and weakness.
Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism and polycystic ovarian syndrome are linked to hair loss.
Who to See & Types of Treatments Available
There are literally hundreds of products on the market today that claim to effectively treat hair loss. Unfortunately, majority of these products are unproven and untested. Many of them haven’t even undergone scientific studies. It’s important to understand that hair loss can be caused by chemicals in shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products, including those that claim to prevent or treat hair loss. It’s best to consult a dermatologist before using any product or medication.
After studying your condition closely, the dermatologist may prescribe medications in order to treat the condition. Some of the most common are:
Dutasteride – This is an FDA-approved medication used to treat prostate enlargement. However, it can be an effective hair loss treatment for men and for women who are not pregnant or do not have plans on conceiving a child during the treatment period.
Minoxidil – This topical medication, which does not require a prescription, is an effective treatment in terms of keeping the remaining hair and stimulating hair growth. Unfortunately, it can cause hair growth in unwanted areas (such as the face) and not enough in areas like the frontal hairline.
If the dermatologist determines that hair loss is a symptom of an underlying medical condition, you will be referred to a specialist instead of just treating the symptoms.
Hair restoration through a surgical procedure called hair transplantation is also becoming a popular way to regain lost hair these days. The procedure involves removing hair follicles in an area of the scalp with rich hair growth and transplanting them to balding areas. The procedure may have to be repeated several times to achieve the best results. Unfortunately, it can be both quite expensive and time-consuming. If you want to consider this option, be sure to check the credentials of the surgeon carefully before agreeing to the procedure to ensure great results.
Hair loss prevention
As in many other medical conditions, a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition can prevent hair loss from occurring or progressing. Staying away from several hair styling products including chemicals and equipment can also help maintain the overall health of the hair and scalp. However, if a person experiences hair loss due to genetic factors, nothing much can be done to prevent the condition.
- American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
- American Academy of Family Physicians