Hair Loss - Alopecia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment




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What is alopecia or hair loss?

Alopecia refers to any form of hair loss, hair thinning, or balding anywhere in the body. There are a variety of causes which can lead to hair loss, though the most common and natural one is ageing.

Hair loss often goes untreated, since it is not considered as a disease, besides regular hair fall is also a natural phenomenon. However, this can lead to unfortunate consequences, if the hair fall is more than normal.

On an average, one can lose between 80 - 100 hairs a day, of the 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on an adult head. There is a cause for concern if the hair loss is double than that.


Acute hair loss, or a sudden increase in hair loss, could occur due to many reasons such as stress, pregnancy in women, male pattern baldness, female pattern baldness, exposure to strong sunlight, anaemia, hypothyroidism’, vitamin B deficiency, autoimmune disorder, chemotherapy, etc.

Should you notice:

  • loss of clumps of hair from your scalp
  • excessive thinning of your hair
  • unexplained loss of hair from any part of the body
  • that you are tearing and pulling out your hair (Trichotillomania)
  • incomplete hair loss on the scalp and/or eyebrows

you need to consult your family physician or a general practitioner immediately.

Depending on your condition, the general practitioner may direct you to a dermatologist, a trichologist, or even an endocrinologist if the hair loss is related to hormonal imbalance. You may also be referred to a psychologist if you suffer from Trichotillomania.


The Hair Growth Cycle



Hair is made up of keratin, which is a protein produced within the hair follicles on the uppermost layer of the skin. The follicles keep producing new hair cells and push out the old dead cells. The hair that you see on your head are compact strands made of dead keratinized cells.

 

At any given time, 90% or more of the hair on your scalp keeps growing. No two hairs have the same growth pace. In fact, each hair follicle goes through an entire growth cycle of its own, which is influenced by factors such as age, nutrition, illness, and also ethnicity.

It is because each hair follicle goes through a different growth cycle, that you shed only a certain number of hairs per day. If all the hairs on your head went through the same growth cycle, all your hair would fall off at once.

Between starting to grow and falling off, each strand of hair goes through three stages:

  • Anagen (Growing Phase) - is the hair growing phase, which can last between two to seven years. At any time, about 80% - 90% of the hairs on your head are in the anagen phase. The hairs in this phase grow from one centimetre to half an inch every 28 days. Your genetics determine the amount of time your hair follicle stays in the anagen phase.


  • Catagen (Regression Phase) - signals the end of the active growing phase and approximately 1% of the hair is in this phase at any given time. This phase of the hair lasts for around 10 to 14 days.


  • Telogen (Shedding Phase) - this is a resting phase, at the end of which your hair is released and it falls out, i.e., the resting hair stays in the follicle till it is pushed out by the growth of a new anagen hair. At any given time, 10% - 15 % of all hairs are in the telogen phase. The follicle then remains dormant for 3 months and the whole process recurs again.


What are the causes of alopecia/hair loss?

Some of the most common causes of alopecia/hair loss include:

  • physical stress due to overwork illness, accident, injuries, childbirth, emotional disorders, or surgery which can cause telogen effluvium
  • usage of birth control pills by women
  • pregnancy in women which can result in hormonal imbalances
  • scalp infections such as ringworm or fungal infections
  • poor diet, especially less protein intake, which can cause hair loss as hair strands are essentially made of the protein, keratin
  • excessive hair styling and colouring
  • smoking
  • genetic hair loss
  • autoimmune disorders such as Alopecia areata, or lupus, where the immune system of the body attacks its own healthy cells, including hair follicles
  • chemotherapy which can result in spot baldness or complete baldness
  • taking excessive amounts of Vitamin A supplements
  • male pattern baldness caused by a combination of family genes and male hormones
  • female pattern baldness caused by family genes
  • medical conditions such as, anaemia, iron deficiency, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women, eating disorders, and thyroid disease
  • vitamin B deficiency in the body
  • sudden weight loss due to physical trauma
  • burns and X-rays too can cause sudden temporary hair loss
  • taking medicines such as blood thinners and anti-depressants
  • trichotillomania which is an impulse control disorder causing people to compulsively pull out their own hair
  • natural ageing, especially when people enter their 50s or 60s.


What are the types of alopecia/hair loss?

When your hair growth cycle is disturbed, problems such as hair loss, and hair thinning begins. If for instance, your hair enters the resting phase too early, excessive shedding and thinning of the hair occurs.

There can be a number of reasons which lead to the disruption of the hair growth cycle, and result in different types of alopecia such as:

 

  • Alopecia areata - starts suddenly and causes hair loss in patches anywhere in the body in children and young adults. This condition is also known as ‘spot baldness’. This condition is observed to run in families and experts believe this condition could be the result of autoimmune disease, where the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the hair follicles.
    A person suffering from this condition may lose all the hair. This though can be a temporary condition and the hair may grow back after a few years. Though there is no guarantee.


  • Involutional alopecia - is a natural process, wherein, hair thinning occurs with age. With ageing, most of the hair follicles go into the dormant or resting phase, while the length of the rest of the hairs gradually become shorter and as a result, the hair quantity becomes thinner.


  • Androgenic alopecia - is a genetic condition. Men with this condition suffer from what is commonly known as male pattern balding, which can start during late teens or their early 20s. Women with this condition suffer from what is known as female pattern balding and begin to notice the thinning of their hair after around 40 years of age.


  • Alopecia totalis - is an autoimmune disorder and occurs when a person experiences total loss of hair on the head, and face, including eyebrows and eyelashes. This can be a sudden process or a gradual progression of alopecia areata. This condition can affect children as well as adults.


  • Alopecia universalis - is also an autoimmune disorder in which there is total hair loss all over the body, including eyebrows, eyelashes, and pubic hair. It is considered to be the most severe form of alopecia areata.


  • Scarring alopecia - can be caused by various disorders such as:
    • frontal fibrosing alopecia (occurs in women during menopause),
    • scleroderma (an autoimmune rheumatic disease)
    • lichen planus (an itchy rash),
    • discoid lupus (a mild form of lupus)
    • folliculitis decalvans ( occurs in men causing patchy baldness and scarring)

Scarring alopecia occurs mostly in adults and is a condition where the hair follicles get destroyed. The hair can never grow back.

  • Trichotillomania - is a psychological disorder affecting mainly children who tear and pull out their hair. This can destroy hair follicles and prevent hair from growing.


  • Telogen effluvium - occurs mainly due to the body’s reaction to stress, brought about by, illnesses such as cancer, mental and emotional disturbances, medications such as blood thinners, hormonal imbalances, stress during childbirth and so on. In this condition hair thinning occurs on the scalp. The hair usually regrows after the stress period is over.


  • Alopecia barbae - is loss of facial hair and affects men, specially as it causes hairless patches in beards.


  • Alopecia mucinosa - also known as follicular mucinosis is an autoimmune disorder. It causes inflammation of the hair follicles which can result in scarring or non-scarring hair loss. This condition can affect any part of the body and can affect both children and adults. If treated early, the hair will grow back. If the condition is too severe, the hair will not grow back.


  • Traction alopecia - is a condition of hair loss which is common in women. It occurs due to tension in the hair shafts caused by very tight ponytails, braids, or pigtails. If the hair is tied regularly for too long, it can lead to prolonged traction alopecia, and the hair on the affected areas may never grow back.


  • Anagen effluvium - is widespread hair loss all over the body due to chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or radiotherapy. The hair loss is usually temporary and grows back after a certain period of time.


What are the symptoms of alopecia/hairloss? How is alopecia/hair loss diagnosed?

The symptoms of alopecia or hair loss include:

  • excessive hair loss ( more than 150 hairs a day) from the scalp
  • hair loss from other parts of the body, apart from your head
  • thinning of hair on the head, especially scalp
  • a receding hairline
  • patches of broken hairs
  • an M shaped pattern in front of your head, just above your forehead, leaving the crown of the head exposed
  • clumps of hair on your pillow
  • complete loss of all hair from the head
  • complete loss of all hair on the entire body
  • excessive hair loss while shampooing

 

Diagnosis


Your doctor will ask you your medical history, your family’s medical history, and especially about hair loss in the family. By looking at your symptoms, and examining a few of your hairs under a microscope the doctor will be able to diagnose if it is a case of alopecia areata.

He may also perform a scalp biopsy to rule out the possibilities of fungal, ringworm or other infections.

Your doctor may also suggest a blood test to determine if the cause of hair loss is an autoimmune disease or hormonal imbalance.


What are the complications of alopecia/hair loss?


The complications of hair loss or alopecia are mainly psychological in nature. Hair loss can affect you emotionally, and cause you to feel that your identity is being threatened since it has to do with your self-image that you want to portray to others.

If you are suffering from excessive hair loss, it is not only advisable to undergo treatment immediately for it, but also to undergo counselling and talk therapy, which will not only help you manage your symptoms, but also boost up your self image, self confidence and help you to wholeheartedly accept yourself as you are.

Some complications of alopecia include:

  • low self-esteem
  • depression
  • dandruff, if the alopecia is a result of poor nutrition
  • sunburn on the scalp and exposure to the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun, which can be prevented by wearing a hat or applying a sunscreen lotion on the scalp
  • thyroid disease, diabetes, and vitiligo if a person suffers from alopecia areata since these conditions are also linked to  problems with the immune system


What is the treatment for alopecia/hair loss?

Medical treatments


Depending on your gender, the type of hair loss or alopecia, and your overall health condition your doctor may prescribe intake of certain medications or even creams and ointments for application.

He may also suggest steroid injections, or treatments such as immunotherapy, hair transplantation, laser phototherapy, and UV Light treatment.


Alternative treatments for hair loss


There are alternative treatments available for hair loss too, such as aromatherapy, massage, acupuncture. Their efficacy, however, has not been tested.

An Ayurvedic treatment called Shirodhara however, has shown a certain amount of promise for stopping hair loss and aiding hair growth.


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Patient Experiences

Anuj Arora
Hair Fall Arrested
Dr. Shruti is indeed a very dedicated and gifted professional. Her treatment has immensely helped in arresting my hair fall and helping new hair line return to the crowning on my head thereby giving me a new ray of hope. Even when I was restless and erratic in my medicine application she regularly followed up if I was following the prescribed medical advice and her foresight and easy explanations of medical problems and remedies helped a lot. Her understanding of her field is truly commenable....Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Shruti Barde
Lifewave Hospital
Asif Ali
FUE Treatment- Value For Money
I visited many clinics before I finalized Royal Lush clinic but really satisfied with drs expertise in FUE hair transplant... Got my HT done with him. Economical but truly value for money......Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Syed Nazim Hussain
Royal Lush Skin Hair & Laser Clinic
Madhuri rajgor
Natural Way To Grow Hair
I had a very good treatment hear for better hair growth. Its very natural and fastest way to grow your hair once again ...Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Shakti Raj Jammula
Hair Harmony & You

Questions answered by trusted doctors

Verified User
I'm suffering from alopecia since five years l have used a lot of medicine until now no benefit Is there any proper medical for it
Dr. Sudha Shroff
Dermatologist, Hyderabad
Hello,alopecia means patterned hair loss.if it is alopecia areata its patchy hair loss for which toical creams and intralesional injections would help.if it is androgenic alopecia that is male baldness treatment depends on grade of alopecia ranging from topical medications to hair transplant.prp treatment is one of the natutal treatment available for alopecia in which plasma from patient is taken and injected into scalp.underlying causes too should be evaluated before starting treatment.
Verified User
Hi sir I am suffering for heavy hair loss problem so please give me suggestions for control hair loss
This is happening due to increased conversion of testosterone to DHT and reduced nutrition to scalp and hair follicles. Thus, hair become weak from their roots(follicles) and acclerate hair fall. The good news is that this is easily treatable with ayurvedic tablets. These tablets block conversion of testosterone to DHT. At the same time, these tablets nourish hair follicles making hair strong and prevent hair fall. Please let me know if you have any other disease or abnormal symptoms. Otherwise, this is easily managed with our wedel capsules.
Regards
Dr. Omkar Balkrishna Shahapurkar
Pune
Dr. Venkat Raghav
General Physician, Bangalore
Hello..... Hello....Hormonal changes and imbalances can cause temporary hair loss.....Scalp infections. Infections, such as ringworm, can invade the hair and skin of your scalp, leading to scaly patches and hair loss. Once infections are treated, hair generally grows back..  Hair loss can be caused by drugs used for cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, high blood pressure and birth control. Intake of too much vitamin A may cause hair loss as well. The most common cause of hair loss is a hereditary condition, in this case both hair thinning and hair fall can occur ... Consult dermatologist .
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Did you know?

More than half the male population suffers from hair loss

58% of the male population in India, aged 20-50 years, has AGA (Male Androgenetic Alopecia).

Reasons for hair fall

According to hair specialists the four major hair fall reasons in India are, stress, bad habits, pollution, and unhealthy eating.

Men vs women distribution

Compared to men, women have severe hair loss issues, mostly due to their health conditions.

Related videos

Related articles

Hair Fall Treatment Procedures

It is normal to lose about 50 to 100 hair strands a day, however, losing more than that can spell trouble. Know more about alopecia, or hair loss and treatments on Practo Procedure-Wiki.

Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) or Hair Transplant Strip Method

A highly-advanced technique of hair transplantation, Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) is performed in a way, which imitates the pattern of natural hair growth and is an ideal choice for people who have large bald areas on their head.

Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) Hair Transplant

Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), as opposed to the FUT procedure, is a hair transplant method in which the doctor extracts the follicular units of hair, from the donor area of your head, one by one.

Home Remedies

Increase Your Protein Intake

Hair is essentially made up of keratin which is a protein. Therefore it is highly essential for you to include sufficient amount of protein in your diet. Spinach, almonds, walnuts, paneer, tofu and milk are hair-happy foods.

Drink Green Tea

Green tea is effective in stopping hair loss and helping in hair growth because it blocks out Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone that causes hair loss.

Moisturise and Oil Your Scalp Regularly

Too much of hair styling and colouring can make the hair thin, coarse and brittle. Use a mix of coconut and almond oil and oil your hair three days a week. Leave it overnight and wash it off the next morning.

Keep Yourself Well Hydrated

Drink plenty of water and keep yourself well hydrated. Cut down on smoking and alcohol drinking which makes you dehydrated. If you are not consuming enough water to meet your body’s daily oxygen requirements, the cells responsible for hair growth will not be able to grow and reproduce. This will make your hair brittle, withered and very dry. Not drinking enough water can stop the natural growth cycle of your hair. So drink plenty of water to get a long, shiny and luscious mane!

Consume Foods Rich In Vitamin B and Minerals

Consume foods rich in Vitamins B3, B5, B9, and E such as oranges, spinach, chicken, fish, broccoli and soya beans. Zinc which is very good hair growth can be found in wheat, dairy, oats and egg yolk. Magnesium, which is another important mineral for enhancing hair growth can be found in milk, tuna, banana, cashews. Increase your iron intake as well, by eating green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, and beans and fish.

Hot Oil Scalp Massage

Massage your scalp with hot oil preferably coconut, castor or olive oil. Take the warm oil on hand and apply it to your scalp. Rub your fingers on the scalp in a circular motion, applying gentle pressure. Keep kneading occasionally. This will open up the blood vessels and increase blood flow to your head and strengthen your hair follicles as well, encouraging new hair growth.
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