Alopecia simply means hair loss and there are many types. Hair loss can occur suddenly or gradually and may occur in patches or more diffusely over the scalp. Sometimes, hair loss appears as a result of certain methods of hair styling. Some hair loss can be associated with scalp redness, soreness, itching, scaling, bumps and folliculitis. Although hair loss is not necessarily damaging to physical health, it can be a sign of illness and can even have severe effects on quality of life and emotional health through its impact on confidence and self-esteem. Below are some of the more common types of alopecia and a few tips to treat it.
Traction alopecia is due to hair being pulled too tightly. The pattern of hair loss is often distinctive and reflects the direction of the tension. It is most commonly seen in braided hairstyles, some weaves, dreadlocks and hair pulled into a ponytail too tightly. The hair loss depends on the way the hair is being styled, but commonly begins in the temporal regions and at the hairline or above the ears. This type of alopecia can be improved if the tension is relieved, however prolonged traction can stop new hair follicles developing and can lead to permanent hair loss.
MALE AND FEMALE PATTERN BALDNESS
Androgenetic Alopecia is also known as Male and Female Pattern Baldness. Although it is more common in the elderly, it can affect young persons. It can be inherited and is affected by hormones. The hormone Dihydrotestosterone affects the hair follicles, which leads to the hairs becoming progressively smaller and shorter until the follicles eventually stop producing hair. In males, the frontal hairline recedes usually in a triangular pattern followed by thinning at the crown or top of the head. In females, the thinning starts at the top of the head, and gradually moves to the frontal hairline. This kind hair loss is usually permanent.
TELOGEN AND ANAGEN EFFLUVIUM
Telogen refers to the natural phase of hair shedding, and Anagen refers to the natural phase of hair growth. Telogen effluvium is the name for temporary hair loss due to shedding, after some shock to the system. Shedding is noticed particularly after combing and brushing. Hair loss occurs all over the scalp and results in a smaller volume of hair, but it does not cause baldness. It can occur suddenly (over weeks) or gradually (over several months). There are numerous causes, which include childbirth, major surgery, trauma, crash diets, bereavement, sudden weight loss, some medications, hormonal changes and illnesses such as thyroid disorders, iron deficiency anemia, “Lupus”, and cancer just to name a few. In around a third of those affected, no cause can be found. This type of hair loss is not permanent and may resolve by itself completely after 3 to 6 months. Anagen effluvium is similar to Telogen effluvium and is mainly caused by radiation, chemotherapy, infection, toxins and drugs.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that affects the hair follicles. It leads to small, smooth, bald patches on the scalp, or can continue until all the hair on the scalp is lost (Alopecia Totalis) or complete loss of hair from the body (Alopecia Universalis). It may also present as an Ophiasis pattern when the hair loss is localized to the sides and lower back of the scalp. This type of hair loss is not permanent and regrowth can occur by around one year, however for some persons there is a chance of recurrence.
CENTRIFUGAL CICATRICIAL ALOPECIA (CCCA)
Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA) is a condition that predominantly affects women of African ethnicity. Inflammation of the hair follicles leads to the formation of scar tissue. Hair loss from CCCA occurs primarily in the crown of the scalp and radiates outward in a circular pattern. The alopecia is incomplete with a number of hairs remaining (and resembles female pattern baldness). In some cases it occurs without any symptoms and can go unnoticed for long periods. In other cases it is associated with burning, itching and pain. The exact cause of CCCA is unknown, and this type of hair loss is permanent.
Include more gentle hair grooming practices and hairstyles with less tension. This can improve hair loss from traction alopecia and CCCA.
Reduce the frequency of relaxers, bleach, dyes, styling products and other chemicals that you put into your hair. This will help to prevent inflammation and accompanying hair breakage/ hair loss.
Wigs and hats are a simple, quick and easy cover up for moderate to severe hair loss.
Minoxidil (also known as Rogaine or Regaine) is a medication clinically proven to treat hair loss and is available over the counter. It works by promoting blood flow to the hair follicles, stimulating and prolonging hair growth.
See a doctor if you are experiencing significant hair loss/ shedding of hair. If you think you have telogen effluvium, it is important to do several blood tests to rule out any deficiencies or illnesses, which are contributing to the hair loss.
See a doctor if you think you have folliculitis, that is inflammation of the scalp, which may present with significant redness, tenderness or pus, and would require antibiotic treatment
Steroids can be used to treat hair loss, especially in mild cases. Visit a doctor to see if your type of hair loss would benefit from steroid medication.
Surgery can be used in advanced permanent hair loss. Follicular unit transplantation (FUT) is a minor surgical procedure in which small numbers of hair follicles in stronger areas of the scalp are artistically placed in thinning areas. The procedure involves a fast recovery, and can have natural looking and permanent results.
I hope you benefited from this information on ALOPECIA, REMEMBER, YOUR HEALTH IS INVALUABLE.
Dr. Lawarna Matthew