It may have started with a few extra hairs in the sink or in your comb. But now you can't look in the mirror without seeing more of your uncovered scalp. Anyone — including men, women and children — can experience hair loss. But baldness typically refers to excessive hair loss from your scalp and can be the result of heredity, certain medications or an underlying medical condition. The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. The most common type is known as androgenetic alopecia or pattern baldness. It's typically permanent and can be attributed to heredity. In fact, about 95 percent of hair loss from the scalp is due to your inheritance. Another type of alopecia, known as alopecia areata, is usually temporary. It affects approximately 2 percent of the population and can involve hair loss on the scalp or the body. Its specific cause is unknown. No matter what causes baldness, the results can be traumatic. That may be why hair-growth schemes are among the most common medical scams. A quick Web search using the key word baldness turns up a multitude of wonder cures and treatments. But many products marketed to reverse baldness avoid regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because they aren't considered drugs. Still, FDA approved medications and surgical procedures are available to treat baldness. Before pursuing any of these options, be sure to talk with your doctor about the cause and best possible treatments for your hair loss.
Causes of Alopecia Neoplastica
About 90 percent of the hair on most people's scalp is in a 4- to 5-year growth stage at any given time. The other 10 percent is in a 2- to 3-month resting phase, after which it is shed. Most people shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. Once a hair is shed, the growth stage begins again as a new hair from the same follicle replaces the shed hair. New hair grows at a rate of approximately 1/2 inch each month. Hair loss may lead to baldness when the rate of shedding exceeds the rate of regrowth, when new hair is thinner than the hair shed or when hair comes out in patches. Androgenetic alopecia is caused by heredity. Although it's most common among men, it can also affect women. A history of androgenetic alopecia on either side of your family increases your risk of balding. Heredity also affects the age at which you begin to lose hair and the speed, pattern and extent of your baldness. Alopecia areata is classified as an autoimmune disease, but the cause of it is unknown. In fact, people who develop this type of baldness are generally in good health. A family history of alopecia areata makes you more likely to develop it. Unlike androgenetic alopecia, hair will generally grow back. But it may take several years. Other causes of temporary hair loss include: Disease. Diabetes, lupus and thyroid disorders can cause hair loss. Poor nutrition. If you get inadequate protein or iron in your diet or are poorly nourished in other ways, you can experience hair loss. Fad diets, crash diets and certain illnesses, such as bowel disease or eating disorders, can cause poor nutrition. Medications. Certain drugs used to treat gout, arthritis, depression, heart problems and high blood pressure may cause hair loss in some people. Taking birth control pills also may result in hair loss for some women. Medical treatments. If you are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, you may develop alopecia. After your treatment ends, your hair typically will begin to regrow. Recent high fever, severe flu or surgery. You may notice you have less hair 4 weeks to 3 months after an illness or surgery. These conditions cause hair to shift rapidly into a resting phase, meaning you'll see less new hair growth. A normal amount of hair typically will appear after the growth phase resumes. Infancy. Newborn babies often lose hair during the first few months of life. This baby hair is eventually replaced by more permanent hair. It's also common for babies from 3 to 6 months of age to lose a patch of hair on the back of their heads from rubbing against mattresses, playpens and car seats. Hair will grow back once a baby begins to spend more time sitting up. Childbirth. Some women experience an increase in hair loss several months after delivering a baby. This usually corrects itself. Hair treatments. Chemicals used for dying, tinting, bleaching, straightening or perming can cause hair to become damaged and break off if they are overused or used incorrectly. Excessive hairstyling or hairstyles that pull your hair too tightly also can cause some hair loss. Scalp infection. Infections such as ringworm can invade the scalp and cause changes on the skin's surface, which can lead to hair loss. Once infections are treated, hair generally returns. Ringworm, a fungal infection, can usually be treated with a topical or oral antifungal medication.
Signs and Symptoms of Alopecia Neoplastica
If you have androgenetic alopecia, you may experience hair loss as early as your teen years. For men, this type of baldness is typically varcharacterized by hair loss that begins at the temples and the crown. The end result may be partial or complete baldness. Women with androgenetic alopecia usually have hair loss limited to thinning at the front, sides or crown. Complete baldness rarely occurs in women.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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