Baldness involves the complete or partial loss of hair, usually on the scalp, but sometimes other places as well. Normally, we shed 50 to 100 hairs every day as part of a natural growth, resting, and renewal process. When a hair is in the resting stage, it loosens gradually from its root and is shed. A few months later, a new hair begins to grow in its place.With aging, it is normal for hair to thin in women and men. But many men experience more extensive hair loss due to a hereditary condition called male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, which can occur any time after the teen years. Typically, it begins with a slow thinning of all scalp hair; then the hair gradually recedes from the forehead and thins at the crown, eventually leaving just a fringe around the back of the head and over the ears.Hair follicles in balding areas metabolize androgens, male sex hormones, in a different way than those on other parts of the scalp and body, causing some hair follicles to shrink. Hair growth slows, and eventually the hair dies, resulting in permanent baldness. Women may experience temporary hair loss from hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause, or post menopausal hormone therapy. When a woman has female pattern baldness at about the time of menopause, this is due to major shifts in androgen levels, and like male pattern baldness, it tends to be hereditary. Excessive perming, straightening, or hair coloring can also cause excessive hair loss in women, as can wearing a tight pony tail. A temporary type of hair loss called alopecia areata produces patchy baldness in both men and women. Some researchers believe that this is an autoimmune reaction in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy hair follicles. In many cases, the hair grows back within 6 to 24 months. Fungal infections of the scalp, such as ringworm, also cause hair loss that is generally reversible with treatment.
Diagnostic Studies aud Procedures
The cause of most baldness is easily diagnosed on the basis of appearance and medical history, such as recent ill ness or drug use. A fungal infection can be detected by examining the skin with a special light.
Drug Therapy,Hair loss due to male pattern baldness may be treated with minoxidil , a reformulation of a blood pressure medication that causes excessive growth of scalp and body hair as a side effect. It is now prescribed as a topical lotion that is applied daily to the scalp. It takes several months to show results, and only about one third of men experience significant hair regrowth. The new hair is finer and thinner than normal, and the drug must be used continuously to maintain the new hair growth. Alopecia areata can sometimes be halted by applying a topical steroid or injecting it into the scalp to lower the immune systems attack on the hair follicles.
Two procedures are now available. The oldest is hair transplantation, in which small circles, or plugs, of skin containing healthy hair follicles are transplanted from the back and sides of the head to the balding site. If the plugs take, they continue to grow hair. Surgery is usually done in stages, but sometimes entire strips of skin with hair can be moved. Transplantation is expensive; each plug costs $30 to $35, and an average procedure requires from 50 to 200 plugs The second surgical approach is scalp reduction, in which a surgeon removes an oval shaped piece of scalp from the top of the head, then pulls the part of the scalp that still contains hair upward to fill in the missing piece.
Some physicians have successfully stimulated hair growth by rubbing a chemical irritant onto the scalp. The resulting inflammation sometimes produces hair growth. In another experimental approach, allergen sensitizers are applied to the scalp. These procedures must be done by a professional, and they work for only a few people.
There are numerous claims of alternative cures for baldness, but there’s no proof that any really help.
An ancient remedy calls for rubbing onion juice on the scalp and then exposing it to the sun. Some herbalists today recommend a rosemary hair tonic. There is no evidence that either works.
Although self care cannot halt male pattern baldness, gentle treatment may slow its progression. Never brush wet hair, as this action can weaken and break it. Instead, comb gently with a large tooth comb. Use mild shampoo and warm, not hot water, rinse with cool water, and gently towel dry. Both men and women concerned with hair loss should avoid perming and the use of hot hair dryers and hair coloring. Another option is a hair piece. Some new types are quite natural looking and can be attached with glue or by anchoring the piece to other hair with fine wires. These hair pieces do not shift or fall off even while the wearer is swimming and showering. They are made with either human or artificial hair and range in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Other Causes of Hair Loss
Diseases that often produce hair loss include lupus, thyroid insufficiency, and scleroderma, a hardening of the skin. A high fever, radiation exposure, and certain drugs, especially cancer chemotherapy, also produce hair loss.