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What can i do about hair loss?

If a disappearing thatch is leaving you asking: “Why am I losing my hair and what can I do about my hair loss?”, read on to learn all about hair loss causes, treatments & more.

Why Am I Losing My Hair?

The potential reasons for your hair disappearing partly depend on the type of hair loss you are experiencing:

Normal Hair Loss – It is perfectly normal for both men and women to lose some hair every day. Most of us do, in fact, lose anything between 50 and 100 hairs per day without ever nothing this (somewhat insignificant) loss, which is essentially simply a matter of daily cell renewal and therefore nothing to worry about.

Temporary Hair Loss – Typically occurring suddenly and without warning, this type of hair loss is often patchy, with patches appearing randomly all over your head. Common causes of temporary hair loss include:

  • Alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition where an inflammation results in the spontaneous appearance of circular bald patches both on the scalp and on other hair-bearing regions of the body. Once the inflammation subsides, regrowth of hair may occur.
  • Telogen effluvium, a not necessarily even thinning of hair on the scalp. Hair grows in several stages: a few years of growth, resting (known as the telogen stage or phase) and shedding, which is followed by regrowth.

Occasionally, the roots of your hair enter the resting phase prematurely. Known as telogen effluvium (TE), this premature resting period is frequently caused by “shocks to the system”. Hair loss due to TE may occur weeks or even months after such ‘shocks’, which may consist of:

  • Severe infections, high fever or major surgery
  • Severe or chronic illness
  • Severe psychological stress
  • Significant weight loss due to “crash diets”
  • Under- or over-active thyroids
  • Cancer treatments

TE may also be caused by medications including beta blockers, retinoids and antidepressants; NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories) and calcium channel blockers.

As the resting phase is followed by regrowth, hair usually resumes normal growth without the need for treatment. It is, however, obviously of utmost importance to either rule out or identify and treat any potentially underlying medical conditions to start with.

  • Tinea Capitis, a fungal infection sometimes also referred to as “ringworm of the scalp”. Causing hair loss by attacking hair follicles and shafts, this condition is characterised by bald spots dotted with black spots left by broken-off hairs.

Although this condition is more common in children, it can also occur in adults. Once treatment (typically involving antifungal antibiotics) has been successful, normal hair growth usually resumes.

Permanent Hair Loss – Usually commencing at the temples and slowly expanding to reach the crown of the head, this hair loss type gradually develops and progresses over time. The most common cause of permanent hair loss in men is Androgenetic Alopecia or, as it is better known, MPB (Male Pattern Boldness).

Male Pattern Baldness

Frequently also called male pattern hair loss, MPB typically starts becoming apparent on the temples before slowly spreading to the crown of a man’s head. Often first noticed as a thinning of hair, it is a progressive type of hair loss that develops in a pattern causing that “classic M-shaped hairline” often seen as a man gets older and eventually resulting in the only hair remaining forming a U-shaped ring around the back and sides of the head.

Usually running in families and believed to be passed down generations via numerous genes, MPB is at least partly caused by genetic hypersensitivity to DHT (dihydrotestosterone), which is a male hormone.

This hereditary DHT hypersensitivity can cause damage to hair follicles and lead to new hair growth being progressively thinner, as well as shorter, than the old hair it is replacing.

A study conducted in 2011 (LifeScience.Com) concluded that scalp stem cells losing the capacity to develop into the cells required to produce hair follicles is another major, root cause of MPB.

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It’s All About Hair Loss Causes…

Before we move on to explore what options are available to you in terms of hair loss treatments, it is important to mention here that your first step if you are worried about hair loss must be to speak to your doctor, especially if you are losing your hair in clumps and/or if your hair loss is:

  • Sudden
  • Causing irregular, randomly placed bald patches
  • Accompanied by your head itching and/or burning

Your doctor will be able to either rule out or identify any underlying medical problems. If your hair loss is caused by a medical condition, this condition must be treated before all else.

So, what Can I Do About My Hair Loss?

Once any underlying medical issues have been ruled out or effectively treated, your choice of hair loss treatments include:

  • Grooming Techniques/Products, Hair-Pieces & Wigs;
  • Surgery and
  • Medications

Grooming Techniques/Products, Hair-Pieces & Wigs

Mild hair loss can often be effectively dealt with by:

  • Styling your hair to cover thinning areas;
  • Using volumizing shampoos/conditioners to add volume to your hair (which will make it look thicker), or
  • Filling in thinning areas by attaching hair weaves to your existing hair.

Your hair stylist can help you determine which hair style and/or products will be most suitable for you.

If your hair loss is more widespread or severe, a hairpiece or wig may be a suitable solution.

Surgery

Commonly used hair replacement surgery procedures include:

Hair Transplants – Frequently also called hair grafts or grafting, these procedures involve hair from the back of the head being moved to the front.

Scalp Reductions – Here, surgeons will remove balding areas of the scalp and stitch the remaining, hair-bearing areas together.

Scalp Expansions – Involving stretching of the skin via insertion of devices under the scalp, scalp expansion procedures may be performed on areas bearing hair to help reduce balding or prior to scalp reductions to “slacken” the scalp.

Best for men with MPB, these procedures are not recommended for anyone prone to forming keloid scars or men without enough hair on the parts of their scalp where the hair for a transplant would be taken from (known as “donor sites”).

Medications

Medications formulated to reduce MPB hair loss include:

Minoxidil (Regaine) – Available OTC (over-the-counter) without prescription, this is a topical MPB treatment that is applied twice a day directly to your scalp. Once treatment has commenced, it cannot be stopped, as the hair will otherwise start falling out again.

Finasteride 1mg Tablets – Taken orally, Finasteride is the generic version (and active ingredient) of the branded MPB treatment known as Propecia. Available on prescription, it is formulated exclusively for male users and highly effective in reducing hair loss and, in some cases, even promoting regrowth. 

As with all medications, it is important to read the accompanying ‘patient information leaflet’ for important information concerning dosage, potential contraindications/side effects, etc.

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