According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), around 80 million men and women in America have hereditary hair loss called alopecia. This condition can affect just the hair on the scalp or your entire body. Though it is more dominant in older adults, excessive hair loss can affect children as well.
The Kids Health state that it is usual to lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day. That small loss is not noticeable as you have around 100,000 hairs on your head. Moreover, new hair generally replaces the lost hair, but this does not always happen. Hair loss can progress slowly over years or occur abruptly. Furthermore, it can be permanent or temporary.
It is not possible to count the amount of hair loss on a certain day. There may be more hair loss than normal if you notice a large amount of hair after washing or clumps of hair in the brush. You might also see baldness or thinning patches of hair.
Causes of hair loss
First, your dermatologist will try to find out the underlying cause of your hair loss. Hereditary male- or female-pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss. People having a family history of baldness may have this type of hair loss. Moreover, certain sex hormones can also trigger hereditary hair loss. It may begin as early as adolescence.
Sometimes, hair loss may also occur with a simple pause in the hair growth cycle. Surgeries, major illnesses, or traumatic events can also trigger hair loss. However, your hair usually starts growing back without any treatment.
Hormonal changes related to childbirth, pregnancy, menopause, and discontinuing the use of birth control pills can cause temporary hair loss.
There are certain medical conditions which can also cause hair loss include thyroid disease, alopecia areata, and some scalp infections like ringworm. Diseases which cause scarring, like lichen planus and some types of lupus, can cause permanent hair loss because of the scarring.
Medications used to treat high blood pressure, arthritis, cancer, depression, and heart problems can also result in hair loss.
Any physical or emotional shock may also cause noticeable hair loss. This type of shock includes extreme weight loss, a family death, or a high fever. People with the hair-pulling disorder (trichotillomania) have a compulsion to pull out hair. They usually pull hair from their head, eyebrows, or eyelashes.
Hairstyles can also cause traction hair loss which put pressure on the follicles by pulling the hair back very forcefully.A diet lacking in iron, protein, and other essential nutrients can also lead to thinning hair.
Diagnosis of hair loss
Often persistent hair loss indicates an underlying health issue. Your doctor can determine the cause of hair loss on the basis of your physical examination and health history. Simple dietary changes can help in some cases, with switching prescription medicines.
In case your dermatologist suspects any skin or autoimmune disease, they might take surgery of the skin on your scalp. For this, a small section of your skin is removed for laboratory testing. However, keep in mind that hair growth is a complex process and it may take time to determine the exact cause of hair loss.
Treatment options for hair loss
In case you notice more hair loss than normal, discuss the problem with your clinician. They can help you in this regard by suggesting suitable treatment plans. There are different options which can be used for the treatment of hair loss.
Medications will be the first treatment course for hair loss. Over-the-counter medications usually consist of gels and topical creams. You can directly apply them to the scalp.
The most common products contain a constituent termed minoxidil (Rogaine). Your doctor may recommend you minoxidil together with other hair loss treatments, according to the AAD. Its side effects include scalp irritation and hair growth in areas, like your forehead or face.
Hair loss can also be treated with prescription medications. Oral medication finasteride (Propecia) is prescribed for male-pattern baldness. This medication is taken daily to slow hair loss. Some men experience the growth of new hair after taking finasteride. Its side effects are rare which include the impaired sexual function and diminished sex drive.
Moreover, there may be a strong link between finasteride use and a fast-growing type of prostate cancer.
Some doctors also suggest corticosteroids such as prednisone. People with alopecia areata can use this to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation.
There are certain side effects of these medications which should be monitored carefully. Possible side effects comprise;
- glaucoma, a collection of eye diseases which can cause optic nerve damage and vision loss
- fluid retention and swelling in the lower legs
- higher blood pressure
- high blood sugar
There is an indication that use of corticosteroid may also put you at higher risk for the following problems;
- calcium loss from bones, which may cause osteoporosis
- thin skin and easy bruising
- sore throat
In some cases, medications are not enough to stop hair loss. There are surgical procedures which can be used for the treatment of baldness.
Hair Transplant Surgery
It involves moving small plugs of skin, each with some hairs, to bald parts of the scalp. This works well for those individuals with inherited baldness since they naturally lose hair on the top of the head. This type of hair loss is progressive. Therefore, you would need multiple surgeries over time.
In this procedure, a surgeon removes part of your scalp which lacks hair. During this, the surgeon closes the area with a piece of your scalp which has hair.
The flap is another option in which surgeon folds scalp which has hair over a bald patch. This is a type of scalp reduction. Bald spots can also be covered with tissue expansion. But it requires two surgeries.
In the first surgery, a tissue expander is placed under a part of the scalp which has hair and is next to the bald spot. After some weeks, the expander causes the growth of cells. In the second surgery, the expander is removed and placed the new skin with hair over the bald spot. These surgical remedies tend to be expensive, and they carry risks. These consist of;
- patchy hair growth
- wide scars
Prevention of hair loss
There are certain things which you can do to prevent further loss of your hair. Try to avoid tight hairstyles such as braids, ponytails, or buns. This is because they put too much pressure on your hair. Over time, such styles permanently damage your hair follicles. Moreover, make sure to have a well-balanced diet. Try to get adequate amounts of iron and protein.
Certain beauty treatments can really worsen or cause hair loss. If you are currently losing hair, use gentle baby shampoo for the washing of your hair. Unless you have oily hair, consider washing them only every other day and avoid rubbing your hair.
Styling tools and products are also common culprits in hair loss. Such products include hair straighteners, coloring products, blow dryers, heated combs, bleaching agents, perms, and relaxers.
If you want to style your hair with heated tools, only do so when your hair is dry or damp. Also, try to use the lowest settings possible.