Jumaat, 28 Januari 2011

What Causes Baldness/Hair Loss?

I started losing my hair when I was 32. My father was also bald at a relatively young age. I thought baldness only occured at a later age. What causes baldness?

Losing hair is a part of life. As an adult, you lose about 100 scalp hairs a day. Hair lives for around 3 years. There is a growing phase (anagen) and a resting phase (telogen). The telogen period is only for three months. Then the hair root shrivels up into a small white club, and the hair falls out.

At any one time, 10% of your scalp hairs are in the telogen phase.

There are many conditions that cause baldness. But the commonest is male-pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia. (alopecia = baldness.) As you age, your hair thins out and men experience it faster and more extensively than women.

When you have male-pattern baldness, you do not really notice clumps of your hair coming out. It just thins out until it is not there anymore. This is because when your hair drops out, it does not get replaced.
Your hair changes even during your teenage years. When you are in your adolescence, you might notice the hair around your temples receding and your hairline changes to the 'M' shaped pattern of adult men. This is normal.

If you see your hair falling out and are worried, just pick up one of your fallen hairs. If there is a white club at the end of it, it is already dead and it was meant to fall out anyway and be replaced.

Losing my hair at 32 is normal? Surely I am a little young for it.

Male-pattern baldness starts between the ages of 20 and 45. The hair loss follows a typical pattern – it starts at the temples and/or the crown of your head. Then the top surface of your head goes bald.

Male-pattern baldness is caused by testosterone, or rather, one of its derivatives. It slows down hair production and when the hair comes out, it is weaker and shorter. Sometimes, the hair from the follicle will cease to grow.

If my father is bald, does it mean I will be bald too?

It is inherited, yes. Not just from your father, but from your mother's male relatives. You just have to look at the male members of your family to know whether you will have a full head of hair or be bald.

Do women become bald?

Yes, they do. Testosterone is also present in women, though in lesser degrees.

There is a condition called female-pattern baldness, which is different from male-pattern baldness. It is mostly hereditary as well. Your hair starts thinning over the top and front of your head.

Other than male or female pattern baldness, can we become bald because of certain diseases?

Yes, of course. There is patchy hair loss, called alopecia areata. You actually get twenty sen coin patches of absolute baldness, which usually regrows in 3 to 6 months. Then another patch starts. Sometimes the hair regrows back white in colour! Alopecia areata is caused by the body's own immune system attacking its own hair follicles.

There's also traction alopecia, which is hair loss caused by having braids or severe ponytails!

Fungal infections of the scalp (tinea capitis) can also cause hair loss. As does a strange condition called trichotillomania. These people pull at their own hair when they are stressed or emotional without realising it.

Do drugs make you lose hair? What about childbirth? My friend lost a lot of hair after giving birth to her first child.

Though many drugs list hair loss as a potential side effect, they generally do not cause it. However, cancer drugs, in particular chemotherapy, commonly cause massive shedding of hair.

Some conditions that 'shock' the body tremendously, such as childbirth, high fever, sudden weight loss (dieting), and surgery can make you lose hair. Here, your hair falls out in clumps. It is rather dramatic. But you will regain your hair.

How do we treat baldness?

It depends on the root cause. By the way, you should shampoo your hair normally because shampooing helps free dead hair and it does not make your hair fall out any more than it should. And colouring, perming, or conditioning your hair does not cause hair loss.

For male-pattern baldness, there are the drugs minoxidil and finasteride. If you do not want to use drugs, you can opt for hair pieces or hair transplants.

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