Causes of hair loss in young children

child alopeciaAlopecia is the form of thinning of hair or entire or patchy hair loss can greatly raise the anxiety in many parents. However, young children can be treated for their hair loss problems in order to regrow their hair normally.

The following are the causes of hair loss in children. Your child’s doctor will diagnose the condition and carry out the necessary treatments required for hair growth:

  • Alopecia areata

In this condition, the body’s own immune system targets the hair follicles resulting in patches of hair loss or bald spots on the head. The patches will be oval and smooth without any tiny hairs. Statistics show that 1 in 1000 children suffer from this condition.

There is no known cure for the condition; however, treatment procedures can be performed in order to control it. Most of the children will regrow their hair in one year, however, 5% of the children may not respond to treatment resulting in the loss of hair from the entire scalp (alopecia totalis) or even the whole body (alopecia universalis)

Treatment may involve the application of topical creams or aggressive corticosteroid ointments on the bald regions. Teenagers may be given steroid injections with the minoxidil.

  • Tinea capitis

Tinea capitis or ringworm refers to a fungal infection usually present in children. The condition may take place in different ways, but is commonly recognized as round/oval scaly bald patches on the head. The hairs on the affected region can be broken off and make the skin appear as if it has black dots on it.

Your child’s doctor may use a culture test to diagnose the condition. Your child may have to take oral fungal treatments with the use of antifungal shampoo in order to control the growth of the fungus and eliminate it from the scalp.

Ringworm is a contagious infection, therefore, it is important that your child does not share his personal belongings and make sure that nobody touches the items that were in contact with his head such as hats, scarves, hair brushes, combs and even pillow cases.

  • Trichotillomania

Also known as hair pulling disorder, trichotillomania refers to hair loss caused by constant pulling, rubbing, plucking or twisting of the hair. The affected regions are patchy and the hair will be broken in varying lengths. Usually the child’s dominant hand side of the head is affected the most.

The condition is often caused due to emotional factors that may cause stress or grief, for example, through the loss of a close family member such as a grandparent, divorce between parents and a new sibling. If you suspect your child has hair pulling disorder, it is important to note that this is a cause of stress and should not be treated by scolding or reprimanding the child. Instead seek counseling to relieve your child’s stress.

  • Telogen effluvium

A severe or sudden stress for example, a surgery, a high fever, a severe injury, certain medication or even the death of a close family member or friend can interrupt the normal growth of hair. This happens because the hair growth cycle takes a resting phase known as the Telogen phase. In about 6-16 weeks, hair begins to fall off dramatically resulting in patchy or complete baldness.

There is no treatment or medication to treat Telogen effluvium, however, in most people, hair grows back normally once the period of stress is over.

  • Nutritional deficiency

This is a less common situation, but hair loss can happen as a result of nutrient deficiency as well, for example:

  1. Vitamin H, a B complex vitamin also known as biotin helps in converting carbohydrates to glucose for energy. Biotin deficiency may also lead to hair loss
  2. Iron deficiency or anemia also causes hair loss in many children and adults as well
  3. Zinc is a mineral required for cell metabolism and normal growth of cells—deficiency may interrupt normal hair growth

Sometimes, too much vitamin A in the body may also lead to hair loss. However, in most cases, children having a nutritional diet will not suffer from any form of nutritional deficiencies or malnutrition that may result in hair loss. Consult your child’s pediatrician before you give your child any nutrient supplements.

  • Hormonal disorders

Sometimes endocrine problems or hormonal disorders such as hypothyroidism can cause hair loss in children. Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs as a result of an underactive thyroid gland which produces insufficient thyroid hormones for metabolism.

Your child’s doctor will perform a blood test to check or thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4 levels to determine the productivity of the thyroid gland.

Treatment involves certain medication that replace the hormones that are in inadequate supply, depending on your child’s health in general and medical history, his/her tolerance to certain medication and therapies, the severity of the condition etc.

Losing hair can be especially troubling for grown ups, let alone a child.  There are many wigs now available for children in human and synthetic hair that  can help rebuild a child’s self esteem who is dealing with alopecia. A new wig or custom designed hairpiece can really make your kid feel like a kid again and start enjoying life despite their medical circumstance. It’s wonderful to see the transformation in a child with new hair made to look just like their very own!

For more information on alopecia or wigs for kids, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to direct you to resources in your area.

Photo Image Credit: News.Discovery Istockphoto

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