Alopecia refers to the loss of hair from your scalp or any hairy regions of the body. Men, women and also children may experience alopecia as it can be a result of certain medications, hereditary factors or underlying medical conditions.
Baldness means the excessive loss of hair or the absence of hair from the scalp. Baldness is often noticeable when it affects the scalp; however, other regions of the body are also susceptible to the condition. Many people leave this condition untreated, without hiding their baldness, while others choose to cover the affected regions with scarves, hats, makeup and different hairstyles—if medical treatment is not sought.
There are two major types of alopecia namely: Alopecia areta and androgenetic alopecia. Alopecia areata take place when the immune system of the body attacks the hair follicles by mistake, causing their hair to fall out. Androgenetic alopecia is a condition that is inherited, which results in the thinning of the hair, causing hair fall. 60% of the men are affected by androgenetic alopecia, which is permanent.
Normally people lose 50-100 hairs per day, which should not make a noticeable difference as the human scalp can contain up to 100,000 hairs. With age, the hair gets thinner and hair starts to fall more. Other common causes of hair loss include medication, medical conditions and hormonal factors.
Hair loss is commonly caused by medication used to treat the following conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Medical conditions
The following medical conditions may also cause hair loss in many people:
Scalp infections. These may include ringworm, which tampers with the skin and the hair on your scalp causing a drastic hair fall. However, once the condition is treated, the hair will grow back.
Thyroid disorders. The thyroid gland plays a role in regulating the hormone levels of the body. A problem with the normal functioning of the gland may also result in hair fall.
Alopecia areata. This is a disease which occurs as a result of the body’s immune system attacking the hair follicles on the scalp, thus causing hair fall patches.
Other skin conditions. Scarring diseases such as lichen planus and lupus may lead to permanent hair loss in the scarred regions.
This is the most frequent cause of hair loss as a result of a hereditary condition termed as male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness. People, who are more likely to experience hair loss due to hormonal changes, suffer from permanent hair loss in different patterns. This type of hair fall is common in men and can even commence during puberty.
Sometimes hair loss due to hormonal imbalances can be temporary especially due to stopping the use of birth control pills, childbirth/pregnancy and menopause.
Other causes of hair loss include:
Hair pulling disorder. This is actually a mental disorder which gives rise to an urge to pull one’s hair from any part of the body leading to bald spots.
Physical or emotional shock. This can be a high fever, grief due to death or even drastic weight loss or malnutrition.
Hairstyles. Pulling the hair too tightly to style it can also cause hair loss.
The way hair loss occurs depends on the underlying cause that leads to it. Sometimes hair loss can be gradual or sudden and sometimes it can be ‘patchy’ only affecting small parts of your body or it can also cause a complete hair loss affecting the whole body and the scalp. Hair loss can be temporary in many people, however, it can be permanent as well—it all depends on the causative factor.
Some common signs and symptoms of hair loss include:
Gradual thinning of hair from the top of your head. This can affect both men and women and is often characterized as an M shaped line on the forehead.
Round and/or patchy bald regions or spots. Commonly known as bald spots, this kind of hair loss usually affects the scalp but can also occur on the eyebrows and beards. You may even feel some irritation or itchiness while the hair falls off.
Sudden hair loosening. This can be a result of a physical or emotional shock, allowing your hair to ‘loosen’ from the scalp. You may get handfuls of hair falling off while you wash or comb your hair. Usually all of the hair is not affected and the condition does not result in patching.
Hair loss from the whole body. Chemotherapy or other medical treatments may cause the complete loss of hair from your body. The hair will re-grow after treatment is complete.
When to seek medical help
Sudden hair loss may indicate a red flag for an underlying medical condition that may be hazardous to your health. If you suspect that the hair loss is not caused due to an obvious cause or is your hair falls much more than usual while combing or washing, consult your doctor as medical treatment may be required.
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