Hair loss - treatment and causes

Article

23. 08. 2022 Dermatovenerology

Excessive hair loss tends to be more common in men, but it does not avoid women altogether. Generally, it is only a cosmetic problem, but hair loss can also be an indicator of some diseases. For effective treatment, it is important to make a correct diagnosis and to identify all the factors that may aggravate the condition. In this article, you will find a brief description of what hair loss is, including possible causes and treatment options.

Hair loss: what’s normal and what’s a cause for worry? 

Each hair grows for approximately 3 to 7 years and has 3 phases - anagen (active), catagen (transitional) and telogen (resting), after which the hair naturally falls out of the hair follicle. The duration of each phase and the number of hairs in each phase is genetically determined. This means that there are specific differences between individuals.

Naturally, a person loses about 100 hairs per day, and if a dramatically higher amount of hair is lost, this is called effluvium. The term alopecia refers to a condition of reduced hair (or hairs) in places where they normally occur. In the case of extreme hair loss, it is always advisable to consult a doctor, as a more serious illness may be to blame (see below).

 

Causes of hair loss

There are a number of possible causes. Increased hair loss can be genetic or the result of a disorder in various parts of the hair cycle. Thus, the causes can be quite different - from genetics to poor lifestyle to hormonal fluctuations or some serious diseases. The following are some of the most common causes:

  • stress, both psychological and physical (conditions after childbirth, surgery, etc.),
  • trauma to the hair follicle (improper hair styling, plucking, etc.),
  • poor lifestyle and diet,
  • nutrient and vitamin deficiencies (e.g. vitamin C, D, B12, A, iron, selenium, zinc...),
  • hormonal changes (childbirth, menopause, replacement therapy...),
  • thyroid diseases,
  • certain infectious diseases,
  • cancer,
  • certain medications,
  • other (often autoimmune) diseases - systemic lupus erythematosus, kidney failure, non-specific intestinal inflammation, liver disease, diabetes, skin diseases (e.g. psoriasis, tinea capitis, folliculitis, etc.).

The life and quality of hair is also negatively affected by excessive hair care -  frequent washing, blow-drying, use of inappropriate products, chemical treatments (dyeing, bleaching, perming) and frequent combing don’t do your hair follicles much good.

 

What is alopecia

Alopecia refers to hair loss of a scarring and non-scarring nature. The non-scarring alopecia is subdivided into localized and diffuse alopecia.

As mentioned in the introduction, increased hair loss is called effluvium, which is a kind of precursor of alopecia. Alopecia is when the density of head, body and pubic hair is already significantly reduced. Different types of alopecia have different causes, from heredity to poor diet to excessive stress.

The most important thing for the proper treatment of alopecia is a correct diagnosis and identification of all factors that may be aggravating the condition. The simplest and most basic examination is a careful medical history and objective examination of the patient.

 

Hair loss in women

"In women, in addition to a genetic predisposition age and associated hormonal changes, as well as stress are the most common causes of hair loss. Women often suffer from increased hair thinning after childbirth or during menopause. Various reduction diets, eating disorders, or weakening of hair due to frequent chemical treatments also often have an impact on hair quality and hair loss," explains Helena Michalíková, MD, dermatovenerologist at Canadian Medical.



Hair loss after childbirth

Most women tend to experience the best hair health of their lives during pregnancy. The change often comes after childbirth, when hormone levels change. However, this is not an irreversible change - after 2-3 months postpartum, hair health usually returns to its original state.

 

Hair loss in men

In men, hair loss is mostly influenced by genetics, hormones and age. Very often, the cause is androgenic alopecia, which is the most common type of alopecia. The frequency of occurrence increases with age, and the development of androgenic alopecia is conditioned mainly by genes. 

 

Previously, experts believed that hair loss in men is caused by excessive amounts of testosterone and its metabolite dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the blood. It is now clear that androgens do play a crucial role, but a number of other factors also apply. 

Androgenic alopecia in men usually begins with a receding hairline on the forehead. The thinning then progresses towards the vertex and often ends with complete loss of all hair. This type of alopecia does not avoid women who lose their hair gradually and the first symptom is usually a thinning hairline on the forehead.

 

Hair loss in children 

If excessive hair loss occurs in children, it is advisable to seek medical attention immediately. Hair loss is usually a symptom of another disease. The most common causes of excessive hair loss in children are:

  • mycotic infection - a very contagious disease affecting the scalp,
  • alopecia areata (alopecia areata) - a very unpredictable type of hair loss in which circumscribed bald patches form on the scalp. The follicles appear suddenly and may occur elsewhere on the body. This type of alopecia is considered an autoimmune disorder and damage by a similar process, inflammation, elsewhere in the body (most commonly the thyroid gland) should be ruled out.

Hair thinning is also typical of children suffering from an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, where they have a compulsive tendency to pluck or pull out their hair.

 

How to prevent hair loss

In general, for successful treatment, it is essential to address the root cause of hair loss. Therefore, it is always necessary to consult a doctor about the appropriate therapy.

To slow down hair loss and accelerate the growth of new hair, your doctor may recommend medication with the active ingredient minoxidil. Minorga or Belohair are available in the Czech Republic for example. In some cases, medicines with the active ingredient finasteride (Penester, Adafin, Hyplafin) may help. This is a relatively expensive but quite effective treatment. Hair transplantation may also be another option.

However, drugs alone are not enough, as mentioned above - the treatment of hair loss must always be focused mainly on eliminating the cause.

  • Stress/anxiety conditions - a change in lifestyle and a reduction in the level of stress and anxiety are needed.
  • Nutrient or vitamin deficiencies - it is necessary to adjust the diet accordingly and include appropriate foods or vitamin supplements.
  • Hormonal changes - here the condition may adjust spontaneously (for example, during the months after childbirth). However, if the problem persists, further investigations are necessary (especially into thyroid function) or hormone levels may need to be adjusted with the help of appropriate medication.
  • Side effects of medication -  you will need to consult with your doctor about other options. However, never change your prescribed medication without first consulting a doctor.
  • Autoimmune diseases or cancer therapy - here it is necessary to follow the treatment as prescribed. If the cause of hair loss is chemotherapy, it is necessary to wait - hair usually grows back after the treatment is finished. 



Foods and vitamins against hair loss

For healthier hair, it is recommended to have a diet rich in fish, legumes, vegetables, fruits and various seeds.

Common causes of hair loss include zinc and iron deficiencies, so it is advisable to supplement these. In addition, the problem may be related to a deficiency of fats, vitamins D, B12, C, A, copper, selenium and biotin. It is always best to consult a doctor about appropriate supplements. Regular exercise and adequate drinking and good quality sleep are also important.

 

Shampoos and other anti-hair loss products

As already mentioned, excessive care for your hair may actually have a negative effect. The use of a lot of hair products, frequent washing and blow-drying, can be harmful. There are plenty of products on the market that help fight hair loss, such as Revalid, Vichy strengthening shampoo, Alpecin and many others. Your doctor or pharmacist can best advise you on which product to choose.

 

Finding out the root of the cause is essential

Hair loss is a natural phenomenon- to a reasonable extent. However, if you are experiencing extreme hair loss or hair loss in clumps, it is essential to see a doctor immediately. In addition to uncontrollable genetics or common causes of hair loss such as poor lifestyle, stress, improper hair care, etc., hair loss can also be an indicator of a more serious disease, especially in children. Therefore, it is always crucial to determine the actual cause and, if necessary, to start treatment as soon as possible. You can contact the experts at Canadian Medical for a consultation.

 

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