The Life and Death Of Hair
A Research Summary
What is hair and how does it work?
The term hair usually refers to two distinct parts: the hair follicle and the hair shaft. On average, a human head has about 100,000 hair follicles and roughly the same number of hairs. All those hairs are in one of three stages of the hair life cycle:
Hair loss, also called alopecia, is caused by a disruption somewhere along the hair life cycle. What can cause that disruption? A lot of things apparently, so let’s dig in.
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Hair Loss Conditions
Hair loss conditions can be divided into two main categories: scarring and non-scarring hair loss. While non-scarring hair loss can be reversible, scarring hair loss destroys the hair follicles and can result in permanent hair loss. Thankfully, scarring alopecia is rare, accounting for fewer than 3% of all hair loss conditions.
Both scarring and non-scarring hair loss come in different forms. Let’s start out by taking a closer look at the different types of non-scarring hair loss conditions.
Next, let's take a look at the different types of scarring hair loss conditions.
Diagnosing Female Hair Loss
Based on the hair loss conditions we just reviewed, hair loss is generally caused by one or more of the following:
Diet and nutrition
Finding out who’s to blame isn’t as easy or straightforward as I hoped, but there are ways.
Diagnosing hair loss generally begins with an evaluation of the patient’s personal and family history and a physical exam by a licensed healthcare provider. This evaluation can tell the healthcare provider if hair loss conditions run in the family, if the patient has been experiencing any stressful events or any medical conditions, or if they have been undergoing any medical treatments. It can also provide relevant information about the patient’s diet and hair care routine, and about other symptoms they might be experiencing.
An evaluation of the scalp can help determine if the hair loss is acute or chronic, focal or diffuse, caused predominantly by thinning or shedding, or if there might be any visible scaling, scarring or redness.
Depending on the results of this initial evaluation the healthcare provider may suggest one or more of the following diagnostic tests.
Treating Hair Loss
Once the cause of hair loss has been diagnosed, there’s a variety of treatment options available. The success of the treatment depends on the hair loss condition.
Treatment options can be broadly categorized into:
Topical treatments such as minoxidil (which you may know as Rogaine®), ketoconazole or corticosteroids, which are used to prevent or slow down further hair loss, stimulate hair growth, improve scalp coverage, and reduce inflammation.
Systemic treatments, which are used
to address underlying conditions that cause hair loss such as thyroid disorders, systemic illnesses, emotional stress, medications or fungal infections.
to decrease, inhibit or block androgen activity by altering the production, transport or metabolism of androgens such as DHT. It’s important to note that while antiandrogen drugs are shown to be effective in men, there is insufficient evidence that they improve or prevent the progression of female hair loss. However, some studies show that antiandrogen drugs may be effective in addressing hair loss for women with androgen disorders.
as nutritional supplementation with amino acids, biotin, zinc, iron, vitamin D, saw palmetto, marine protein complexes, and other micronutrients. Nutritional supplementation may be helpful for patients who experience deficiencies, but remains controversial as a systemic treatment for any type of hair loss condition.
Surgical treatments such as hair transplantation, camouflaging or cell therapies are often used for hair loss conditions that are severe or don’t respond to any other medical treatments.
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Always seek advice from a qualified healthcare provider for any questions you may have regarding medical conditions, diagnosis and treatment, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of anything you have read within or through this article.
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I am not a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional, and reliance in any way on any information provided within or through this article is solely at your own risk.
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