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Hair Loss Or Alopecia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention

Hair loss, named as alopecia in medical science, is a condition that affects not only the scalp but the entire body. The condition is marked by excessive hair fall from the scalp in round patches and other body parts [1] . This health condition is in the news again after the Will Smith incident at the Oscar Awards 2022 on March 27, where the actor hit host Chris Rock in the face for making a joke on his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith's alopecia condition.

Let us understand what is alopecia.

Normally, an adult loses 80-100 strands of hair per day out of 10 lakh or 15 lakh strands on their head. This is a normal condition and hair fall is a natural phenomenon[2] . In situations when the hair fall exceeds the normal, medical attention is needed.

Around 5% of people experience alopecia while in others the hair grows back after falling out. Several underlying conditions contribute to hair loss including diseases, genetic and medication side effects.

Causes Of Hair Loss

Hair loss happens every day. Around 100 strands of hair fall on each day of an adult but that goes unnoticed as many of them grow back. Until the growing and shedding of hair are balanced, it is normal but when this phenomenon gets disrupted due to certain conditions, hair loss occurs. The factors causing hair loss are as follows:

  • Hereditary: Hair loss or baldness occurs due to genetics [3]
  • Hormonal changes: Hair loss occurs during pregnancy, menopause, childbirth or due to thyroid problems [4]
  • Medication: Hair loss occurs as a side effect of certain medications like drugs for depression, gout, arthritis, and high blood pressure
  • Stress: Hair loss due to continuous stress or emotional shock [5]
  • Chemotherapy drugs: Hair loss during the treatment of cancer [6]
  • Hair colouring and hairstyle: Hair loss due to some tight hairstyles that lead to inflammation of hair follicles. Also, chemicals present in hair colours damage hair follicles.
  • Scalp infection: Hair loss caused due to fungal infection or ringworms
  • Poor diet: Hairloss due to the deficiency of protein and vitamin B[7]

Types Of Hair Loss

Several reasons disrupt the growth of hair. Therefore, hair loss is of different types.

1. Alopecia totalis: Hair loss due to an autoimmune disorder.
2. Involutional alopecia: Hair loss due to ageing.
3. Alopecia areata: Hair loss that occurs in patches at any part of the body.
4. Traction alopecia: Hair loss in women due to stress or tight ponytail.
5. Telogen effluvium: Hair loss due to stress brought by illness or emotional issues.
6. Anagen effluvium: Hair loss throughout the body due to chemotherapy.
7. Alopecia barbae: Facial or beard hair loss in men.
8. Trichotillomania: Hair loss in children due to pulling out of hair by them.

Symptoms Of Hair Loss

Hair loss is both temporary and permanent. It appears in different ways depending upon the cause of the condition. However, symptoms of hair loss are as follows:

  • Thinning of hair [3]
  • Circular baldness on the scalp
  • Loss of hair in patches from beards and eyebrows [8] .
  • Itchiness before the hair falls
  • Sudden fall out of a handful of hair while combing or washing hair.
  • Broken hair, swelling on the scalp

Diagnosis Of Hair Loss

Firstly, a medical expert will check the family history of a patient to rule out the genetic cause of hair loss. Then, they diagnose it by certain tests which are as follows:

  • Blood test: In this, the blood of a patient is collected to determine the medical conditions responsible for their hair loss.
  • Scalp biopsy: In this method, the doctor takes out a few strands of hair from a patient's scalp to check the hair root and find signs of any infection [9] .
  • Pull test: In this test, a doctor pulls out hair from the patient's head to watch out how many strands of hair come out in a go. The test is used to analyze the shedding of hair.
  • Light microcopy: Here, special hair instruments are used to determine certain hair disorders like hair shaft anomalies and infestations.

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Treatment Of Hair Loss

Depending on the gender and types of hair loss, doctors suggest for the specific treatment of hair loss. Normally it goes by over-the-counter medications and topical creams. Other treatments are as follows:

  • Steroid injection: A type of hair loss treatment in which an anti-inflammatory drug called corticosteroid is injected into the skin's bare patches to mimic a hormone made by the adrenal gland [10] .
  • Immunotherapy: A type of extensive hair loss treatment in which chemicals like dinitrochlorobenzene and diphencyprone are applied on the scalp for the regrowth of hair.
  • Laser therapy: A hair loss treatment in which photons are irradiated into the hair scalp with a laser device. The hair scalp then absorbs those photons and initiate hair growth.
  • Hair transplantation: In this treatment, a cosmetic surgeon removes tiny skin patches along with hair follicle from the healthy growing hair area of a patient and transplant it to the bald section [11] .
  • UV light treatment: In this treatment, UV rays are targeted in the bald section to improve the blood circulation, henceforth, initiating the growth of hair.

How To Prevent Hair Loss

Hair loss can be prevented easily by certain precautionary measures. The steps are as follows:

  • Don't make tight braids, buns, or ponytails.
  • Don't pull your hair.
  • Include iron and protein in your diet.
  • Avoid using blow dryers and hair straighteners.
  • Avoid colouring of hair with chemical products.
View Article References
  1. [1] 1. Phillips, T. G., Slomiany, W., & Allison, R. (2017). Hair Loss: Common Causes and Treatment. American family physician, 96(6).
  2. [2] 2. Martínez-Velasco, M. A., Vázquez-Herrera, N. E., Maddy, A. J., Asz-Sigall, D., & Tosti, A. (2017). The Hair Shedding Visual Scale: A Quick Tool to Assess Hair Loss in Women. Dermatology and therapy, 7(1), 155–165. doi:10.1007/s13555-017-0171-8
  3. [3] 3. Hagenaars, S. P., Hill, W. D., Harris, S. E., Ritchie, S. J., Davies, G., Liewald, D. C., … Marioni, R. E. (2017). Genetic prediction of male pattern baldness. PLoS genetics, 13(2), e1006594. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1006594
  4. [4] 4. Goluch-Koniuszy Z. S. (2016). Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause. Przeglad menopauzalny = Menopause review, 15(1), 56–61. doi:10.5114/pm.2016.58776
  5. [5] 5. Hadshiew, I. M., Foitzik, K., Arck, P. C., & Paus, R. (2004). Burden of hair loss: stress and the underestimated psychosocial impact of telogen effluvium and androgenetic alopecia. Journal of investigative dermatology, 123(3), 455-457.
  6. [6] 6. Trueb, R. M. (2010). Chemotherapy-induced hair loss. Skin Therapy Lett, 15(7), 5-7.
  7. [7] 7. Guo, E. L., & Katta, R. (2017). Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology practical & conceptual, 7(1), 1–10. doi:10.5826/dpc.0701a01
  8. [8] 8. Cervantes, J., Fertig, R. M., Maddy, A., & Tosti, A. (2017). Alopecia areata of the beard: a review of the literature. American journal of clinical dermatology, 18(6), 789-796.
  9. [9] 9. Palo, S., & Biligi, D. S. (2018). Utility of horizontal and vertical sections of scalp biopsies in various forms of primary alopecias. Journal of laboratory physicians, 10(1), 95–100. doi:10.4103/JLP.JLP_4_17
  10. [10] 10. Amirnia, M., Mahmoudi, S. S., Karkon-Shayan, F., Alikhah, H., Piri, R., Naghavi-Behzad, M., & Ranjkesh, M. R. (2015). Comparative study of intralesional steroid injection and cryotherapy in alopecia areata. Nigerian medical journal : journal of the Nigeria Medical Association, 56(4), 249–252. doi:10.4103/0300-1652.165034
  11. [11] 11. Khanna M. (2008). Hair transplantation surgery. Indian journal of plastic surgery : official publication of the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India, 41(Suppl), S56–S63.
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