Hair is a vital part of the human body which makes us look beautiful. They come in various types and textures ranging from fine and invisible to thick and darkly pigmented variations. Hair is made up of a protein called keratin, the major component of a hair strand. The pigmented strands seen on the scalp is made up of dead Keratin Cells which grows at a speed of six inches a year. We normally have as many as 100 -150 million strands on our scalp at a time.
Definition of a Hair Loss
Hair loss can be medically defined as thinning of scalp hair and/or loss of more than 100 strands of hair a day. It is also known as Alopecia. The hair loss which fast progresses towards baldness is known as Androgenic alopecia. The causes include genetic predisposition (inherited from parents), hormonal abnormality, environmental pollution, poor hair and scalp hygiene, infections and so on.
Phases of the hair growth
These are as mentioned below:
Anagen – A phase of active hair growth. It continues for close to 3 -6 years.
Catagen – It’s an intermediate phase, as short-lived as 3 weeks.
Telogen – It’s a last phase of hair growth. At the end of this phase the hair is shed. A whole new hair is generated from the hair follicle and so the cycle continues.
The symptoms are well explained with the types of hair loss found in general population. These are as listed below:
Types of Temporary Hair Loss
Alopecia areata: Hair loss is in the small patches of rounded borders. There is one to little number of such patches on the scalp. It may extend to eyebrows and eyelashes too.
In very few cases, the Alopecia areata can cause hair loss over the whole body. If the whole scalp gets devoid of hair, it is known Alopecia totalis whereas, if the same is true for the whole body, the pattern is known as alopecia universalis.
Traction alopecia: Bald patches are observed on a scalp as a result of the tight and stretched hairstyles such as tight ponytail or a bun.
Anagen effluvium: Hair loss affecting normal hair, secondary to the chemotherapeutic drugs administered to cure cancer. The hair strands again starts growing soon after completion of the treatment though the growth will be scantier than before.
Telogen effluvium: Sudden temporary hair loss, usually post an illness or a stress causing situation. The hair loss of this type generally causes only hair thinning and not baldness or bald patches.
Types of Permanent Hair Loss
Cicatricial (scarring) alopecia: This condition occurs only secondary to the health disorders causing scarring of the scalp.
Male-pattern baldness: Normally and commonly seen in men, with sudden or gradual loss of hair. It can start at any age.
Female-pattern baldness: Thinning of the hair in the front, around the ear or top of the head. Complete baldness is a rare possibility.
What are the treatments available?
Temporary hair loss is generally reversible following correction of the cause like anemia, illness, vitamin deficiency, stress management etc.
Females with pattern hair loss, require hormonal evaluation and evaluation for polycystic ovarian disease, followed by appropriate medication like Spironolactone, flutamide, oral contraceptives etc. as decided by the physician.
Males with pattern hair loss are treated with Finasteride, minoxidil, dutasteride etc. with good though variable results.
A revolution in medical management for males and females is the QR678 therapy which is based on use of specific growth factors and peptides for treating various types of hair loss.
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Stem cell therapy and mesotherapy are some other treatments with variable results.
Hair transplant by the technique of follicular unit transplant, direct hair implantation etc. are very expensive but considered in cases who do not respond to medical therapy, or who want immediate results. The results are longer lasting, however not permanent.