Hair Loss (Alopecia)

Hair Loss (Alopecia)

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Hair loss is a natural process that everyone experiences day in day out - most people lose 50-100 hairs a day. However, some people experience more severe hair loss as a side effect of another illness or due to the heredity conditions androgenetic alopecia. This affects more men than women, and affects around half of men by the time they reach their 50s. It is characterised by thinning hair across the temples, and a receding hairline. Although there are no longer term health impacts of hair loss, the distress of losing your hair should not be overlooked. Some people find it damaging to their self esteem, and feel like they are losing a part of themselves or their image as their hair thins. This is especially true if you lose your hair at a young age, as it can appear as though you have aged prematurely. However, there are ways to reduce and even reverse hair loss, depending on the type of and extent of you hair loss. You can buy hair loss prevention medicine from an online doctor such as iMeds, or if your hair loss is further progressed, or in patches, you may choose to shave it all off and wear a wig instead.

Hair loss is a natural process which most people experience everyday, but there are some conditions or medications which may make you lose your hair faster than normal. The most common of these is androgenetic alopecia, sometimes known as male pattern balding, which is a genetic condition that affects around half of men by the time they are in their 50s. There are several medicines you can buy to prevent this process, including Regaine for Men, which stimulates growth in hair follicles, and as long as they are not damaged, can help your hair to grow back.

Is hair loss normal?

Hair loss is a naturally occurring process that everyone experiences at almost any age. In the average day you're likely to lose 50 to 100 hairs, which may seem like a lot especially if you have long and thick hair, but it's totally normal. You also might notice your hair loss more if you have dark hair, or it tends to fall out when you're showering or brushing your hair.

Hair grows from follicles, which are pockets of skin you have all across your body. You have around 5 million follicles on your body, around 100,000 of which are on your head. Your hair is one the fastest growing parts of your body. Hair begins going in the follicle, and as more grows the hair is pushed out of your head. As soon as the hair leaves the follicle it is dead, which is why you can't feel sensations on your hair when you touch it or have it cut, but when you pull a hair out it hurts because you feel it in the follicle. However, not all of your follicles are growing hair at the same time. Each follicle works for a few years before taking a break. This is why it takes babies a few years to have a full head of hair. When the follicle is taking its break, your hair is most like to fall out. It may feel like you're constantly losing a huge amount of your hair, but in reality it’s a very small percentage and it's designed to fall out naturally, so no matter how much hair gets stuck in your shower drain, you're not going to get a sudden bald patch. Natural balding happens as you get older once some of the hair follicles stop working and don't grow any more hair.

Follicles is all across your body follow this process of growing hair, pausing growth, and hair falling out. Your body hair has a shorter cycle of around a month instead of several years, which is why hair on your arms and legs never grows as long. However, some people suffer from hair loss which is more drastic than this natural process, for example if they are suffering from an illness or taking medication with side-effects which include hair loss, making it more pronounced.

Are there different kinds of hair loss?

There are several kinds of hair loss beyond the normal amount, and the severity of it will depend on the cause. Is you're concerned about your hair loss, speak your doctor and they will be able to identify the cause of the issue by looking at how you are losing your hair. The main categories of hair loss are:

Male and female pattern baldness. This is the most common kind of balding and affects mostly men. In fact, it affects around half of man by the time they reach the 50s. It is hereditary, and is characterised initially by a receding hairline, which is followed by thinning of the hair on the crown and temples. Unfortunately, there is less understanding of the causes and genetic influence in female pattern baldness.

Alopecia areata. Alopecia is another name for hair loss. This rain is how lost causes patches of boldness most of which appear on scalp, but they may occur anywhere on the body. They are usually about the size of a large coin. In most cases, your hair will grow back in a few months, although it will be seen at first and eventually returned to its original thickness and colour. But in some circumstances that owners can get worse. Occasionally it may develop into alopecia totalis, which means you will have no hair on your scalp, or alopecia universalis, where you have no hair on both the scalp and the rest of your body. These types of alopecia are usually caused by immune system problems, and are more frequent among more people who have another kind of immune system difficulty. Although alopecia areata can affect anyone, it's most common in 15 to 29 year olds.

Scarring alopecia. Unfortunately, if you're affected by this kind of hair loss it's likely to be permanent and your hair will not grow back. It's usually a side effect of another illness, and of course because the hair follicle has been permanently damaged. Conditions which damaged the skin, such as scleroderma, lichen planus and discoid lupus may result in scarring alopecia. It is also known as cicatricial alopecia.

Anagen effluvium. This kind of hair loss is temporary, and is usually caused by medications and treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiotherapy. You may experience this kind of hair loss on both your scalp and the rest of your body. If your hair begins to fall out in patches, you may choose to shave it all off have an even look across your head. Your hair will usually begin to grow back a few months after treatment has stopped.

Telogen effluvium. If you experience this type of hair loss, you're more likely to experience thinning of hair instead of outright balding. It may be caused by your body reacts into hormonal changes, and emotional physical stress, some illnesses and medications, or suddenly changing your diet. Your hair will usually begin to grow back after around six months.

What causes hair loss?

There are a huge variety of triggers which can cause hair loss. These include:

  • Emotional stress - Most people notice that when they get stressed more of their hair falls out. This can be related to stress at work, having just had a child, moving house, going to divorce, or the grief of having lost a loved one.
  • Physical stress - If your body has gone through a huge physical incident, such as giving birth or being involved in an intense car crash, you may experience some amount of hair loss.
  • Underlying illnesses - There are many illnesses which can cause you to suffer hair loss, including anaemia, having a hypoactive thyroid, or suffering from a mental illness such as anxiety or depression which can boost your stress levels.
  • Certain medications or treatments - Bloodfin is, antidepressants, beta-blockers, antiseizure medications, and taking the contraceptive pill are among some types of drugs which can cause you to suffer from alopecia. If you're undergoing chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or radiotherapy you may also expect to experience some amount of hair loss.
  • Hormonal changes - This applies more to women than men, but experiencing huge hormonal changes may have an impact on hair growth. You may lose more hair at certain points during your menstrual cycle, if you begin taking the contraceptive pill, or change the pill you're taking, and you may find you lose hair more quickly after the menopause. Some women also find their hair growth and loss changes during and after pregnancy.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome - Also known as PCOS this is a common condition which affects the function of a woman's ovaries. It may include side effects such as weight gain, irregular and painful periods, and excessive hair growth on the face and body. However, the imbalance of hormones is also associated with hair thinning.

Are there any long term health risks of hair thinning?

If you're concerned about your hair loss and think it is far more than normal, you should speak to your GP. Just by looking at your head, they should be able to identify quickly and easily what kind of alopecia you're suffering from. There will also be able to tell you if you can expect it to grow back, and if so in what time frame. They will be able to tell you the cause, although the majority of cases are either natural, a side effect of stress, or a side effect of a medication or illness you already know about. Hair loss is unlikely to the first symptom of an illness.

The Biggest impact of hair loss is losing your hair. This may seem straightforward, but it should not be overlooked or underplayed. Many people find that losing their hair has a huge impact on their life and self image, and if you begin to lose your hair early can be defining point in your life. Losing your hair before you expect to can feel like you're losing a part of yourself, but don't forget there are ways to manage and hide the problem if you wish to. Losing your hair can occasionally lead to further problems with depression, anxiety, or exacerbating your stress levels.

What treatments are available to help me manage hair loss?

The causes behind you losing your hair, and the way in which falls out may impact the way you want it to be treated. For example, if your hair is falling out in clumps and you're experiencing alopecia in patches at the side-effect of chemotherapy, many people choose to get ahead of the curve and shaved the rest of their hair off. Some people find this bold approach to be empowering and make them feel more comfortable to come to terms with the side-effects of cancer treatment.

If you're experiencing how loss for an emotional reasons such as you are suffering from stress, depression or anxiety, you may decide that the best course of action is to root out the cause of the problem and fix things from there, also this may not be a quick solution. You may choose to take up a hobby to help you manage your stress, such as running which can worse as a stress relief by releasing endorphins, or you may wish to speak to a counsellor to overcome and come to terms with your worries, or you may try to overcome the problem yourself with techniques such as meditation and applied relaxation.

If your doctor believes your hair loss is a side effect of medication, they may try to change the medication you're taking. However under no circumstances should you stop taking anything without your doctors guidance, as this may cause more of a problem than the hair loss.

Some people choose to cover up their alopecia with a wig, of which there are two types. Synthetic wigs are cheaper, but many people funding to be itchy and hot, the only usually last around 6 to 9 months. Although real hair wigs can be more expensive, they last for round 3 to 4 years and look more natural. Synthetic wigs are generally easier to look after than real hair ones.

There are also medicines you can take to prevent or manage hair loss. They should only be used under your doctor's guidance and are not necessarily suitable for women. Their effectiveness will depend greatly on the type of hair loss of suffering from. They will not work if the follicle itself has been damaged, such as with scarring alopecia, as you will never be up to regrow hair there. It's also worth bearing in mind that these treatments will only be useful for as long as you are using them. If you stop using the treatment, the hair loss will resume. They are best used to manage and slow androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness, which is the most common type of hair loss. Bear in mind the results will take a while show. Only use these under your doctor's guidance, as they will make sure they do not conflict with your medical history, or any other medications you're taking.