What is Hair Loss?
Hair loss is also known as baldness or alopecia. Your hair grows in three distinct phases – it grows, rests and falls out. During the growing phase about ninety percent of your hair grows and lasts for several years. Hair stops growing during the resting phase which lasts between two to three months. Finally, during the shedding phase, the hair falls out of the follicle and new hair begins to form.
Approximately 50 to 100 hairs are shed daily and this is considered normal for the average person. Hair loss may affect any part of the body that is covered in hair including the scalp, eyebrows, beard or pubic area. It affects both men and women. It is more common in men who tend to accept the condition more easily than women. Women, on the other hand, often struggle to come to terms with their hair loss which can lead to depression, low self esteem and anxiety.
There are various types of hair loss and they include:
- Male-pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) affects men during their teens or early twenties. Hair loss or balding appears at the top of the head with a receding hairline at the temples.
- Female-pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) is characterized by hair thinning at the front, sides and crown of the head. Women seldom experience complete hair loss.
- Cicatricial (scarring) alopecia is caused by scarring of the hair follicle. It is a rare condition and is often associated with itching or pain.
Hair loss occurs in small, bald spots in one particular area, usually on the scalp but can affect other body areas such as eyebrows or beard. Hair eventually grows back after several months but if all body hair is lost, it may never grow back.
A sudden loss of hair occurs because the normal hair growth cycle is interrupted. Hair begins to thin and fall out of the scalp, particularly when you wash or comb or hair.
This condition occurs as a result of hairstyles that pull too tightly on the hair follicle. Hairstyles include braids, tight ponytails, cornrows, chignons, buns or twists.
What Causes Hair Loss?
There a number of causes and underlying factors that may contribute to hair loss. These include:
- Pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) which develops as a result of heredity factors
- Cicatricial (scarring) alopecia occurs when the hair follicle is scarred and damaged by inflammation
- Alopecia areata is defined as an autoimmune disease and it is believed that genetic factors may be the cause
- Telogen effluvium is caused by a change to your normal cycle as a result of physical or emotional stress (high fever, weight loss, loss of a family member, nutritional deficiencies or surgery)
- Traction alopecia is due to hairstyles that pull your hair back too tightly or excessive hairstyling
Other factors include poor nutrition, certain medications, medical treatments, underlying diseases, hormonal changes, trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder) and hair treatments such as bleaching, dyeing, tight braiding, blow drying, straightening or hot curlers
How is Hair Loss Diagnosed?
If you suspect that you may have hair loss, your health practitioner will perform a thorough physical examination, medical and family history. Additional tests such as the pull test, skin biopsy, or skin scrapings maybe ordered to determine the cause of hair loss
Help for Hair Loss
There are several treatment options that may help to stimulate and encourage hair growth. If hair loss occurs as a result of an underlying condition or disease, then the condition needs to be treated first. The various types of hair loss are treated with specific medication which includes antibiotics, corticosteroids, or steroid injections. For more serious episodes of hair loss, surgical procedures such as hair transplants, scalp reduction or skin grafts may be performed to replace hair loss.
Natural and holistic therapy offers a gentler alternative for people experiencing hair loss than the harsh effects of conventional medication. Treatments such herbal and homeopathic remedies stimulate and encourage hair growth as well as support blood circulation, hormonal balance and thyroid functioning.
Herbs commonly used include Ginkgo biloba, Rosmarinus officinale and Xanthoxylum clavaherculis help to promote strong, abundant hair. Other powerful herbs such as Equisetum arvense, Avena sativa and Echinacea are effective combating hair loss and nourishing hair follicles.