Hair loss can be a major source of embarrassment and worry, especially for those of us who aren’t expecting to experience it. As it is, not everyone is lucky enough to have a head of full thick hair by virtue of the genetic lottery. And so, it’s perfectly natural for us to feel fear and embarrassment when we realised that we’re suffering from hair loss. Although some hair loss is to be expected as we age, unexpected hair loss can have a variety of causes that may not be immediately apparent to us.
To help you avoid worrying and losing more hair over your hair loss issue, Homage has curated a guide for you to better understand hair loss causes, types, and treatment. Read on to find out more and figure out how to hold onto your luscious locks.
What is Hair Loss?
Alopecia, or simply hair loss, is not exclusive to the scalp, even though it is commonly associated with balding. On the contrary, hair loss can happen anywhere on your body, depending on what type of hair loss you are experiencing.
Our hair growth follows a cycle with three phases: the growth phase (anagen), the resting phase (catagen), and the shedding phase (telogen). At any given point in time, ninety percent of our hair is in the growth phase, with the rest in the resting and shedding phase. Hair loss generally happens when this cycle is disrupted and the balance between these phases is disturbed, with more hair shedding faster than they can grow back.
Most men start to lose hair in their twenties, while women begin to lose hair in their forties or fifties. As we grow older, we will lose hair. The difference is, for men, hair loss is typically experienced in the front and temporal region, while for women, hair loss typically happens at the center of the scalp. While men can experience complete baldness, female hair loss does not end up with complete hair loss.
Generally the average hair loss per day is about 100 strands of hair— anything more than this could be abnormal hair loss.
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Hair Loss Types
Hair loss can generally be divided into two main categories, scarring and non-scarring.
Non-scarring hair loss is divided into six major types:
1. Alopecia Areata
This refers to hair loss due to autoimmune disease when your immune system attacks your hair follicles, causing your hair to fall out, with patchy hair loss. It can affect any part of your body including your scalp, face, trunk, or limbs. When it only affects a part of your body, it is known as alopecia areata. When it affects an entire body part, it is known as alopecia totalis. When it affects the entire body, it is known as alopecia universalis.
2. Androgenetic Alopecia
This refers to pattern hair loss caused by your genes and hormones. It is the most common type of hair loss experienced.
3. Telogen Effluvium
This refers to hair loss that results from a shift in your hair growth cycle, with more hair changing from the growth phase to the shedding phase. It may be caused by a disease such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. It can also be caused by stress like major surgery. Crash diets, poor diets and drug use can also lead to such hair loss.
4. Traumatic Alopecia
Refers to hair loss that happens due to injury to the scalp or physical force being exerted on your hair. This can range from tying your hair too tightly to trichotillomania, a mental disorder which compels sufferers to pull their hair out involuntarily.
5. Tinea Capitis
This refers to hair loss caused by fungal infection of the scalp, and is also known as scalp ringworm.
6. Anagen Effluvium
Refers to hair loss that happens during the growth phase of your hair cycle. This is usually observed in cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.
Scarring hair loss is divided into 3 major types:
1. Tinea Capitis
Some severe fungal infections of the scalp can lead to scarring hair loss.
2. Alopecia Mucinosa
This refers to hair loss that happens when mucinous material accumulates in your hair follicles and sebaceous glands. An inflammatory response is caused, hindering your hair growth.
3. Alopecia Neoplastica
Refers to hair loss that happens due to cancer spreading to your scalp.
Hair Loss Causes
There are a variety of possible causes for hair loss.
Here are some of them:
- Hereditary hair loss
- Cancer treatment
- Childbirth, illness and other stressors
- Hair care
- Tight hairstyles
- Hormonal imbalances
- Scalp infection
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Thyroid disease
- Biotin, Iron, Protein, or Zinc deficiencies
Given the numerous possible causes for hair loss, you should consult a doctor if you experience other accompanying symptoms and if your hair loss is causing you distress.
Hair Loss Signs and Symptoms
Depending on the type of hair loss you are experiencing, signs and symptoms can differ. Generally, however, hair loss is associated with the following symptoms:
- Gradual thinning on the top of your head
- Patchy or circular bald spots
If, however, your hair loss is caused by a fungal infection, you should also watch out for scaling and scarring.
Hair Loss Risk Factors
Some risk factors for hair loss that we should all take note of are:
- Family history of balding on either side of the family
- Weight Loss
- Some medical conditions like diabetes and lupus
- Poor Nutrition
Hair Loss Treatment
Hair loss treatments can help to reduce or reverse your hair loss. Depending on the cause of your hair loss, your hair may regrow without treatment. Hair loss treatments include both medication and surgery.
If your hair loss is caused by an underlying illness, it is necessary to treat the illness in order to remedy your hair loss. However, if is a side effect of medication that you’re taking, you should seek medical advice from your doctor if stopping medication is appropriate.
Pattern balding is the most typical form of hair loss and can be treated with some common medications:
Minoxidil is a topical medication applied to your scalp to stimulate hair growth and to slow balding. It thickens your hair strands and prolongs the growing phase of of your hair. The improvement rate varies from individual to individual. When used to treat male or female pattern hair loss, hair growth will happen 3 to 6 months after the treatment has been started for 3 to 6 months. If you stop the treatment, hair loss will happen again within a few months. Side effects include scalp irritation and unwanted facial hair or body hair.
Finasteride helps promote scalp hair growth prevents further hair loss in a significant proportion of men with male pattern hair loss. It may take a few months after treatment has been started before you can tell if it’s working for you. Continual treatment is required to retain any benefits you may have. Side effects include diminished sex drive and sexual function, and an increased risk of prostate cancer.
You can also consider hair transplant surgery for pattern balding where hair is grafted onto your scalp from another part of your body. This is, however, likely to be a costly option.
As always, before starting on any treatment, you should consult a doctor to figure out the best course of treatment for your specific hair loss condition.
Hair Loss Remedies
There are also certain remedies that you can consider for treating pattern hair loss:
- Garlic gel
- Marine proteins
- Crude onion juice
- Rosemary oil
You may wish to consult your doctor before embarking on these natural remedies or use them in combination with prescribed hair treatments under medical advice.
Generally, you should see a doctor if you are experiencing severe discomfort, distress, and a diminished quality of life as a result of your hair loss. It is also advisable to see a doctor if you are experiencing other alarming symptoms such as pain or scaling as it may be a sign of fungal infection or other underlying medical conditions.
Hopefully with this guide, you’re now ready to tackle your hair loss head on with confidence. Homage provides caregiving services for your loved ones at every stage. Our trained care professionals are able to provide companionship, nursing care, night caregiving, home therapy and more, to keep your loved ones active and engaged.
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