The reasons for hair loss

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

male pattern baldness

Overview

It is normal to lose about 100 hairs a day. However, anything above this will eventually lead to visible hair loss.

Hair loss can be due to a variety of medical conditions. Hair loss might manifest itself as receding hairline, thinning hair, or the hair falling out in patches. Possible causes include genetics, malnutrition, hormone imbalances, stress, parasites, medical treatment, or certain hairstyles.

Genetic hair loss

Genetic hair loss is the most common type of hair loss. It is not an illness, but a natural part of getting older for roughly 40% of people. Usually visible in men from early adulthood onwards, it typically starts from the temples and then goes back up the scalp.
Over the years the hair on the top of the head gets thinner and eventually the typical male pattern baldness look emerges.

Women can also lose hair, although it is slightly less common. Female pattern hair loss is also often less obvious, as the hair loss is spread out over the head. Therefore, the patient experiences a gradual thinning of the hair, especially later in life, which is less obvious than male pattern baldness.

Another type of genetic hair loss is alopecia areata, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles.

Malnutrition

People usually thing of malnutrition as a problem of hunger but in most of the world it is probably a result of a poor-quality diet.
Malnutrition means that the body lacks one or more categories of the things that it needs to function well. There are several deficiencies which might result in hair loss including zinc or iron deficiencies. A lack of vitamins A, C, D and E can also be a problem.
Finally, people who go on a hard diet can sometimes starve their bodies of calories or proteins which hair cells need to produce more hair. Hair follicles use lots of energy and are producing hair constantly, so if the body does not have enough of either, they are one of the first things to shut down.

The science of hair loss and malnutrition is not well developed. There are many nutritional products which promise to restore or promote hair growth, but few of them are scientifically proven.

Hormones

Hormone imbalance is a common cause of hair loss in both men and women. The precise interplay of hormones and male and female hair loss is not perfectly understood.
Many people believe that balding men have too much testosterone. The common belief is that this imbalance causes male pattern baldness.
This is a great oversimplification. There is a connection between high testosterone levels and male pattern baldness, but the hair loss not necessarily to do with the testosterone itself. It could be a problem with other enzymes which fail to process testosterone correctly.
Alternatively, the hair follicles might be over-sensitive to testosterone. This is often a result of hereditary hair loss conditions.
Hormone issues can also cause female pattern baldness. Women also have testosterone in their bodies, and although it is at a lower level than for men, they also have lower levels of testosterone-processing enzymes.

Stress

Chronic stress makes the body release hormones such as cortisol or adrenaline into the blood. THIS can be useful in the short term, but long term has damaging effects on your body’s essential systems.
If there is too much stress over a long period of time, the body keeps producing the hormones and gets tired, run down and eventually exhausted. Hair follicles are one of the first things to shut down.
A sudden episode of acute emotional or psychological stress can trigger a massive release of the hormone cortisol into the blood. This can switch large numbers of hair follicles into dormancy. The result is hair thinning or patches of the hair falling out. The condition is called telogen effluvium.

Parasites

There are several parasitic fungi which grow on the skin and can make hair fall out.
The most common type of hair loss-causing fungus is ringworm. Despite its name it is a fungus; or rather one of several fungi which can cause the condition.
In fact, ringworm is the same condition as athlete’s foot, just in a different location. As it grows in patches ringworm can cause patchy hair loss in that area.
Hair falls out as well due to other types of skin infection such as seborrheic dermatitis if they occur on the scalp. Dealing with the infection will allow the hair to grow back.

Medical treatments

Many types of medication can cause hair loss. Most famously, chemotherapy treatment can cause dramatic hair loss. Doctors should discuss this with patients before treatment starts.
Aside from chemotherapy drugs, hair loss can be a side effect of drugs for epilepsy, dementia, skin infections, high cholesterol, blood pressure, depression, and many other conditions. Steroids and weight loss medicines may also have negative effects on hair growth, as can birth control pills.

All these medicines should be discussed with a doctor before taking and should only be taken on prescription. Luckily, most medical treatment-related hair loss is reversible and should cease when the drugs are no longer being taken.

Hairstyles

Hair styles that continually pull on your hair can eventually lead to hair loss. This is called traction alopecia.

For example, tight braids, cornrows or dreadlocks can eventually lead to hair falling out if the hairs are tied too tightly. A similar effect might be observed in people with long hair who have tightly pulled buns or ponytails.

Hair extensions that pull on the hair may also have the same effect. Finally, people who wear hair rollers in bed sometimes suffer from their hair falling out.

When should I go to a specialist?

It may not be immediately obvious what the cause is for hair loss. Patients should see a doctor if they experience a sudden and large amount of hair loss. Sudden bald spots are usually a sign that something is not right.
Aside from this, any hair loss that is associated with pain, inflammation or itchiness should immediately be looked at by a doctor. Тhis is also the case if the hair loss is experienced with other symptoms of illness.

What treatments are effective?

Ultimately, hair loss sufferers benefit from medical intervention if the hair loss damages their self-esteem or happiness. For many of the above causes of hair shedding, removing the cause will make the hair grow back. Often this growth phase will be visible quickly. Growing hair can restore self confidence in the patient.
Other hair loss is more permanent, especially those to do with genetics and hormones. Another example of permanent hair loss is the rare condition cicatricial alopecia, or scarring hair loss. This can be especially damaging to wellbeing.

Hair loss is fixable, especially with a hair transplant. A consultation with Dr. Acar at Cosmedica Clinic should make clear the best way to reverse balding.

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