Hair loss can be distressing when it happens for men and women. The following is a detailed description of what it is, its forms and potential treatments.
What are the types of hair loss?
Hair loss is a condition that can affect hair anywhere on the body and it categorized as either solitary, patchy or generalized. Hair loss can be temporary or permanent depending on the cause and/or the length of time since it first presents.
There is a rare form of hair loss that is called scarring alopecia or cicatricial alopecia. The cause is not well understood but the process destroys the hair follicle and replaces it with scar tissue. This condition can be primary, where the hair follicle is the target of the disease; and secondary, whereby the destruction of the hair follicle is incidental to a non-follicle destruction process or is destroyed by some form of injury. A full discussion of cicatricial alopecia is outside the scope of this content.
What causes hair loss?
Causes include heredity, medical conditions, hormonal changes, medications, infection, stress and various forms of trauma. While most individuals think about hair loss being more common in men, it can affect women as well. Let’s review these causes in more detail:
Hereditary or Genetics
The most common cause of hair loss is a condition that is commonly called “male pattern baldness” or “female pattern baldness”. This condition tends to run in families and follows a common and predictable pattern. In men, it may start with the hairline receding on both sides and may involve some hair loss on the top or crown of the head. As an individual continues to age, these areas expand and can eventually lead to complete loss. In women, the pattern is generally a gradual thinning of the hair that involves the entire head.
Common causes of temporary hair loss include iron deficiency anemia and thyroid disease. Very commonly the lateral 1⁄3 of the eyebrow is lost when someone suffers from thyroid disease and for reasons that are not clear, this loss seems to be permanent. In addition, there are various autoimmune diseases that can also result in hair loss including lupus, vitiligo and alopecia universalis or totalis.
Temporary hair loss can occur at any time there are hormonal changes including pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, or with thyroid disease. When pregnancy and childbirth are complete hair tends to regrow. In menopause there may be a combination of temporary hair loss that will affect the entire body, but in some situations this hair loss may become permanent.
Menopause can also cause hair growth in areas where hair is unwanted like the ears, nostrils, lip & chin and the neck.
Medications and Supplements
Hair loss can be a side effect of many medications and supplements especially those used to treat cancer, arthritis, depression, heart conditions, gout and high blood pressure.
Just like any part of the body, it is possible to develop a skin infection that may affect the hair follicles. Infection can be caused by both bacteria, yeast or fungi.
Both emotional or physical stress can result in patchy hair loss called alopecia areata or hair loss from the entire body; areata totalis. In general, these conditions are self-limiting, and hair will regrow gradually over time, but in some situations these conditions may become permanent if not treated.
Radiation and Other Trauma
Exposure to radiation or trauma may permanently or temporarily damage the hair follicles. If the exposure is severe or long-standing, then hair loss is more likely to be permanent. There is a psychological condition termed “trichotillomania” whereby an individual consistently and repeatedly tugs at the same area of hair, usually on the scalp. If this behavior is corrected, the hair will regrow on its’ own.
In addition, certain hair styles or excessive hair styling; for example, wearing the hair in pigtails or corn rows, whereby the hair is pulled excessively tight, can cause a condition called “traction alopecia”. Refraining from these styles will allow the hair to regrow naturally.
What are the risk factors of hair loss?
Common Risk Factors for developing hair loss include the following:
1. Family history of hair loss
3. Significant weight loss
4. Certain medical conditions like thyroid disease, iron deficiency anemia diabetes, and lupus
How do you prevent hair loss?
Hair loss or baldness or hair loss that is caused by genetic or hereditary factors, and some medical conditions is not preventable, the other forms of hair loss may be.
The general rule of thumb to preserve the scalp hair is always to be very gentle with it, including;
- Using gentle shampoo and conditioners and washing the hair only once or twice per week.
- Wear your hair loose as often as possible, but if you want to change your hairdo occasionally, make sure that the style isn’t tight.
- Avoid tugging, twisting or pulling on your hair.
Additional Prevention tips include:
- When you are exposed to UV radiation, apply a UV spray or cream to the hair and scalp or wear a hat.
- Stop smoking.
- If possible, refrain from taking medications and supplements that can cause hair loss.
- If you are undergoing chemotherapy, there are some studies that suggest that fasting during chemotherapy may protect the hair follicles and protect from hair loss.
What is the treatment for hair loss?
As with all conditions, treatment is aimed at treating the underlying cause. A complete assessment to ensure there is no underlying medical condition or nutritional deficiency is the first step in assessing hair loss. Once a diagnosis is made then treatments include a combination of medication, peptide therapy, intralesional steroid injections, injections with platelet rich plasma (PRP), herbal and nutritional supplementation, and regular exposure to low level light laser therapy.
A key message is to have an assessment early in the process. Once hair loss has existed over 6 years, it may be permanent. The only treatment for widespread and permanent hair loss on the scalp is transplantation.
How can FreshSkin help me treat hair loss?
The providers at FreshSkin will help you begin the journey to improved hair health and recommend a solution or combination of treatments to address hair thinning and loss of hair. Begin with a Wellness Consultation to create your customized hair restoration plan which may incorporate PRP for Hair Restoration and or a Hair Growth Laser Treatment along with supplements.