Medical Conditions of Hair Loss
The term ‘hair loss’ is used as a general term to describe the occurrence of hair loss, but there are actually many different types of hair loss. Knowing which one a person has is important so that the proper treatment options are considered. Below is a discussion of a number of common hair loss conditions.
- Alopecia areata (AA) – This condition is probably the third most common cause of hair loss. It is believed that this is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system for some reason attacks the hair follicle and causes hair loss. When a person has AA the condition appears as well-defined circular patches of hair loss which can occur in small patches or in the extreme, to all hairy areas of the body. When the entire scalp is affected the condition is called alopecia totalis and if all hair on the body is lost it is called alopecia universalis.The reasons for the appearance of AA are poorly understood. Onset can be very sudden and sometimes if the condition is localized, spontaneous remission occurs and the hair grows back. Many people with AA do not experience remission and the condition can worsen or in some cases, wax and wane. Treatment options are few and response to those which are available is hit and miss whereby some people are helped and others aren’t. The most common treatment for AA is the use of steroids and lately a new class of drugs, called “biologics” have been used with some success.
- Telogen Effluvium (TE) – This condition is probably the second most common form of hair loss. It is not a well understood condition and there has not been a lot of research directed towards it. TE causes diffuse thinning on the scalp when the number of hair follicle producing hairs drops significantly and excess shedding occurs. This type of hair loss is generally experienced on the scalp. TE can develop from a ‘shock’ to the system and is temporary and eventually the hair grows back normally. Another way that TE develops is when hair follicles stay in a prolonged telogen state which gradually increases the number of thin hairs on the scalp. A final type of TE is when the hair cycles become abbreviated and this results in thin scalp hair and persistent shedding.Treatment for TE exists with a number of drugs and also with the use of laser phototherapy like the HairMax LaserComb which stimulates hair follicles to produce anagen or terminal hairs which helps to eliminate the excess number of hair follicles in the telogen stage.
- Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) – This is the most common type of hair loss and is referred to as pattern baldness. This condition is hereditary and affects millions of both men and women. When someone suffers from this condition, the areas of hair loss on the scalp increases over time. The process of miniaturization in AGA results from the hair follicles ceasing the normal hair cycle and stops hair in the telogen cycle so that hairs become fine, wispy and non-pigmented. Left untreated, hair follicles eventually die and restoration of hair becomes impossible.There are a lot of products on the market that claim to effectively treat AGA, but in fact there are only 2 drugs ingredients on the market that have FDA approval for treating the condition. The other non-drug option is the HairMax LaserComb which has been not only proven to promote hair growth and effectively treat hair loss, but also has FDA Clearance for marketing.
Other Types of Hair Loss
- Scarring Alopecia – Also known as cicatricial alopecia refers to a hair loss disorders that occur in a small number of people caused by the permanent destruction of the hair follicle and their replacement by scar tissue. There are no effective cures for this condition and in many cases hair transplants are an option.
- Infectious Agents – Ringworm (has nothing to do with worms) is a condition of the scalp that describes an infection with a fungus that is similar to that found in athletes foot. In the scalp the condition is called tinea capitis. This fungus gets into hair fibers and hair becomes brittle and breaks off easily. There are a number of effective anti-fungal agents that can successfully treat this condition.
- Loose Anagen Syndrome – This condition occurs when growing hair becomes in fact “loose” and is easily pulled out of the scalp. The condition is poorly understood and there are no effective treatments for it.
- Traction Alopecia and Trichotillomania – These conditions result when hair is pulled out of the scalp. Traction alopecia can result from use of tight hat bands, pulling the hair into tight pony tails or braiding – anything that pulls on the roots of the hair. Trichotillomania is a condition where an individual plucks out their own hair.
- Shock Loss After Surgery – The stress and physical changes following major surgery can cause sudden hair loss. Many times after hair transplant surgery hair loss from shock occurs. It has been reported that the HairMax LaserComb when used after this procedure helps prevent hair loss from occurring.
As can be seen, there are a number of different “hair loss” conditions. By understanding each one and getting a proper diagnosis, appropriate treatment can begin.