Understanding Hair Loss
Scalp hair-loss is also called ALOPECIA which may be temporary or permanent.
All hair goes through a cycle of growth and fall. During the first phase they grow for 3 to 7 years it is called Anagen phase, during the second phase they gradually thin out and fall this is the Catagen phase and lasts for around 3 weeks. After that, They go into a resting or sleeping phase which is called the Telogen phase and lasts for 3 months and then the cycle is repeated. At a time around 10% to 20% hair is in the sleeping phase. A few hairs are shed Daily and go into the sleeping phase. This loss of 20 to 50 hair every day is nothing to worry about.
Temporary hair-loss: Hair falls off but the roots remain like in severe illness, malnutrition, anaemia, drugs like anti-cancer therapy etc. These are reversible causes and the hair grow back once they are treated.
Permanent hair-loss: Occurs when the roots also disappear. Permanent hair loss is something to worry about because if treatment is not begun early the hair will be lost forever.
The most common cause of permanent hair loss is Hereditary Androgenic Alopecia commonly called as MALE PATTERN BALDNESS (MPB) among men. In MPB hair is lost at the front, sides and crown region (i.e. the top of the head). Women are usually affected with Female Pattern Baldness where there is diffuse hair loss throughout the front scalp region.
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Factors causing T
emporary Hair Loss
Poor nutrition causes protein and vitamin deficiencies. Hair is made up of proteins and vitamins and minerals help the enzymes to make these proteins so it is only logical that proper nutrition is most important for hair growth.
Severe illness of the heart, kidneys and liver, anaemia, drugs like anti-cancer therapy etc. cause temporary hair loss. These are reversible causes and the hair grow back once they are treated.
Some people have sparse hair or thin hair that is determined by the genetic makeup.
Smoking accelerates the natural ageing process by restricting the blood flow to the skin. this increased ageing of the skin as decreased collagen and elastin fibres resulting in loose wrinkled skin and also hair loss.
Anxiety and stress
Strong emotional states are associated with increased catecholamine levels in the body which cause systemic changes resulting in hair loss.
Factors causing Permanent Hair Loss
Recent scientific research suggests that in both males and females hair loss has a strong genetic basis along with the role of hormones. The male hormone Testosterone gets converted to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It interacts with the susceptible hair follicle in people who are affected by the gene and causes programmed cell death (apoptosis) resulting in hair loss.
Medical Treatment of Hair Loss
Even after extensive research, there are only two group of medicines which are FDA approved and work in hair-loss, Minoxidil, which is available for local application, and Finasteride which is available as a pill.
Both have a different and complicated mechanism of action but a simplification would be that they stop or prevent DHT from acting upon the hair follicle/ roots.
So as they start working they make the hair thick again, in newly balded areas where the hair root may still be present inside they make the hair grow back again and they keep the present hair intact.
These medicines don’t work equally in all the people. They may work very well in some and not at all in others.
There is no way of knowing whether they will work or not in a person in advance. They don’t work equally in all the areas of the scalp.
Finasteride interferes with hormonal metabolism inside the body so it is usually not used for women.
Since the body continuously produces hormones and the genetic makeup cannot be changed, if the medicines are working, one has to use them indefinitely. If the medication is stopped the effect will go away and hair-loss will begin again. So far this is the only solution to hold back the hair that is about to fall.
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