Hair loss is a common problem faced by millions of people. While it is normal to lose 50 – 100 strands in a day, the trouble starts if you start experiencing thinning hair and bald patches. There are numerous reasons for hair fall right from environmental pollution and sporting tight braids to lack of nutrients and illnesses.
Causes of hair loss
As you age, there is a gradual decline in hair growth and an increase in hair loss. This is a part and parcel of life. However, there are few common causes of hair loss which every one needs to be aware of. This includes:
Androgenic/androgenetic alopecia: It is a hereditary hair disorder that causes permanent hair loss from the scalp and affects both men and women.
Telogen effluvium: If you experience significant hair fall following an illness such as high fever, viral infection or a surgery, then it is termed as telogen effluvium. This mostly causes temporary hair loss and tends to improve by treating the cause of disease.
Medications: If you are on blood thinners or anti-hypertensive medications, there is a high chance that you might suffer from hair loss. The same is the case with chemotherapy drugs and birth control pills.
Stress: When stressed, the body releases the hormone cortisol, which can impact the proper functioning of the other hormones in the body leading to hair loss.
Hormonal problems: Hormonal conditions such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism or poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can cause hair fall. Also, hormonal changes that occur post delivery and during menopause can lead to hair loss.
Eating disorders: Hair loss is also common in people suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (not eating enough) and anorexia bulimia (vomiting after eating).
Trichotillomania: It is an impulsive control disorder that causes an irresistible and recurrent urge to pull out the hair from eyebrows, scalp and other areas of the body. This is a psychological condition which requires medical help.
Scalp infections: There are certain bacteria and fungus which can affect the scalp and cause hair loss. The common infections of the scalp include ringworm infection and dandruff.
Nutritional deficiencies: Lack of nutrients can also impair hair growth and lead to hair loss. Some of the common deficiencies that can cause hair fall include deficiency of protein, zinc, iron, niacin, selenium, biotin, Vitamin A, etc. This could also be due to unhealthy eating habits or following crash diets to lose weight.
Hair care products/styling tools: Regular use of hair dyes, gels and sprays can damage the hair. Also, sporting tight braids and hairstyles, combing and brushing your hair aggressively, shampooing every day or using heated styling tools such as hair straighteners and curlers on a regular basis can cause hair loss.
Treatment of Hair Loss
There are numerous treatment options for hair loss. So to know the exact cause of hair fall and get the right treatment, consult a dermatologist. The sooner you consult a dermatologist and get the proper diagnosis, the better it is to prevent hair fall and hair loss. Here is a quick brief on the common treatment options for hair loss from medications to hair transplant.
Minoxidil: It is an over-the-counter medication which is FDA approved for use in both men and women. Administered topically, the 5 % concentration is used to treat male pattern baldness wheread 2% is only approved for female pattern baldness treatment. It stops thinning of hair and is known to stimulate hair growth.
Finasteride: It is also an FDA approved drug for the medical management of hair loss but only in men. It is a prescription drug that is commonly used to treat an enlarged prostate, but a higher dose is used to treat hair fall. It stops the production of the hormone 5-dihydrotestosterone (DHT), excess of which is known to cause hair loss.
Corticosteroids: These are steroids which help to stop inflammation and treat hair loss. This usually comes in the form of injection which needs to be injected into the scalp to promote hair growth. Talk to your dermatologist to know about it.
Laser treatment: There are numerous laser equipment available in the market which claim to stimulate hair growth and treat hair fall. These include brushes, combs, and other electronic devices, however, the efficiency and safety of these devices is not known.
Hair transplantation: Follicular Unit Extraction or FUE, and Follicular Unit Transplantation or FUT are the two most common techniques for hair transplants. FUT uses strips of skin with hair on them from your scalp itself to be transplanted in a bald spot. In FUE, incisions are made around every follicle unit, which is then transplanted to the balding area. Talk to your dermatologist to know which procedure best suits your condition.
Remember to consult your doctor and discuss in detail about your hair loss problem. Based on the causes of hair loss, your doctor will devise a treatment plan and let you know about the pros and cons of a particular treatment. Ask your doctor everything you wish to know about a particular before and be fully aware of the side-effects and the expectations before opting any treatment for hair loss. In some cases, making a few changes in your diet or lifestyle can show positive results. So it is important to consult a doctor to know the exact cause and decide the right treatment plan.
If you are already experiencing hair loss, then making few changes in your hair care routine and following these simple tips can help alleviate the problem. These are:
Limit the use of use of hair styling products and tools such as hot rollers, curling irons, hot oil treatments, etc as it can cause hair breakage and lead to hair fall.
Say not to tight hairstyles and avoid unnecessary twisting, rubbing or pulling your hair. Don’t rub wet hair with a dry towel but wrap a towel to soak water and allow it to dry naturally.
Avoid combing aggressively as it can cause split ends and hair breakage. Instead, use a wide-toothed comb
Apply oil regularly as it can prevent dirt and toxins from entering into the follicle. Also gently massage the scalp as it can promote blood circulation in the scalp area.
Eat a diet rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants along with proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to prevent hair damage
Do not follow crash diets as rigorous dieting can impair the supply of nutrients to the hair follicles, which leads to telogen effluvium.
Quit smoking as smoking can cause premature ageing of the hair cells which can make the follicles brittle and thin, causing the hair follicles to break easily.
Learn to cope with stress as it can not only lead to hair loss but also lead to hormonal imbalance in the body.
Do consult a trichologist or a dermatologist to know the exact cause of the hair fall and get proper treatment. Do not self medicate like use of supplements or hair care products for hair growth.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Anuj Saini, Manager, Data Science)