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Don't lose your hair!

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Youngsters today are increasingly seeing greater hair loss because of processed foods and other lifestyle factors, says Dr Batul Patel

There has been an increase in hair fall among youngsters for multiple reasons, including family history of hair loss, excessive processed foods, high dairy consumption, poor quality of food and due to the newer unscientific fad diets. Stress and inadequate sleep cycles can also cause a rise in hormonal imbalance in younger females. This can cause miniaturisation of the hair follicle, which may result in female baldness. So identifying the cause through a detailed examination and investigations can help identify the causes and plan for various prevention options.

What is the cause of hair loss?

From about 100,000 hair claimed to be present on the human scalp, a routine loss of 100 hair per day should not cause palpable amount of loss. But excessive hair loss – more than 100 hair – can be due to several causes like heredity, aging, diseases, medical side effects and stress. Sometimes hair loss is temporary and at times it is permanent.

There are a variety of causes for hair loss

Scarring alopecia

This can be caused by bacteria/fungal infection, lichen planus, cutaneous discoid lupus, and scleroderma. Also traumatic injuries like mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical burns, traction and trichotillomania injuries can lead to irreversible hair loss.

Hereditary hair loss

Androgenetic alopecia (AGA) (male pattern hair loss) Some people are susceptible to hair loss due to inherited tendency from paternal, maternal genes. This makes them more sensitive to hormones called androgens which cause shrinking and weakening of hair follicles that result in hair loss.

Female pattern hair loss Somewhat similar to AGA, it occurs after menopause, and sometimes even earlier, due to hormonal changes.

Autoimmune related

Alopecia areata; Alopecia totalis Due to immune system malfunction resulting in hair growth cycle disruption.

Physical trauma or mental stress related

Telogen effluvium; Chronic Telogen effluvium Hair loss as a reaction to incidences of physical stress and mental trauma like childbirth, sudden blood loss, major illness/injury, high fever, severe infection, major surgery, severe emotional or mental stress, crash diet, anorexia and bulimia. It can also be a result of  calcium channel blockers,  non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, retinoids, some antidepressants and birth control pills.     

Medical condition related

Hair loss can happen due to diseases like thyroid disease, anemia, lupus, syphilis or untreated ringworm of scalp.

Traction alopecia Hair loss can happen due to wrong type of hair-care like bleaching/dyeing frequently and improperly; frequent use of hair-care devices like flat irons and blow-driers; banding hair tightly with clips, bands, pulling back tightly.

Other causes

  • Anagen effluvium – Due to chemotherapy.
  • Diet deficient in iron, protein and vitamin C & K, zinc, etc can cause hair loss.
  • Due to hair shaft defect—hair fracture, hair nodes, hair narrowing, hair bands, unruly hair.

Next week: Remedies for hair loss

Dr Batul Patel is Medical Director and Dermatologist, The Bombay Skin Clinic

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