There are 8 types of hair loss that affect men and women, each having its causes and specific treatments. Loss of hair, which can be partial or total, is called alopecia.
If you start losing hair more than normal, you should identify which type of hair loss you are suffering from. This is because each variety has its own specific causes and treatment options.
There are various reasons for hair loss in men and women. Treatment options are available for men and some are specific for women. Some natural remedies also help to stop hair fall and they are effective.
Hair loss can also be due to nutritional deficiency. You must ensure, therefore, that your hair is getting the right nutrition.
Normally, you have about 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on your scalp. You shed about 50 to 100 hairs every day. This is normal.
It is when you notice excessive hair being shed on your pillow or on your hairbrush or on the floor of the bath when washing your hair, that you start worrying a bit.
As mentioned above and I repeat again, there are different types of hair loss and baldness patterns, each having its own causes and respective treatments. Some types are reversible and some are not. There are some preventive measures you can take that can help in preventing the loss of hair.
Different types of hair loss, their causes, and treatments
The different forms of hair loss (alopecia) and baldness are classified depending on the type and location of the hair loss.
Alopecia areata is also called patchy baldness or spot baldness because it occurs in patches over the scalp. It is more common in children and young adults but can occur in otherwise healthy people at any age.
What causes Alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition. The immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, which results in them getting damaged. Hair follicles contain the root of the hair from which the hair originates.
This causes the hair from the damaged hair follicles to fall. This loss of hair is sudden and you can lose hair on the face, eyebrows, arms, and/or the legs.
Alopecia areata can cause
- Hair loss in patches (alopecia areata)
- Loss of all hair over the scalp (alopecia totalis}
- Loss of hair all over the body (Alopecia Universalis)
Prognosis and treatment
Hair can grow back after about six months to one year and can fall out again. Alopecia of this type can at times last for years. This type of baldness responds to treatment with steroids.
Male pattern baldness
Male pattern baldness is characterized by thinning of hair on the top of the scalp and a receding hairline in the front on both sides. You, therefore, see an “M” shaped hair growth on the scalp. The hair on the crown then begins to disappear proceeding to baldness on the top of the scalp.
You then have an inverted “U” shaped pattern of the hair on the scalp. This is also described as a horseshoe shape pattern of hair. It can affect both men and women but is more commonly seen in men and occurs as age progresses.
Teens and young adults can also fall prey to this type of baldness, though less commonly.
Each hair strand arises from a hair follicle. This type of hair loss is due to the shrinking of the hair follicle and the thinning and shortening of the hair strand. However, the follicles stay alive and hair can grow again with treatment.
The cause of male pattern baldness is hereditary and associated with the male sex hormones called Androgens. This type of alopecia, therefore, is also called androgenic baldness.
Male pattern baldness is treated with Minoxidil (Rogaine), a local application, which stimulates the hair follicles to produce new hair.
Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) is given as an oral pill, which interferes with the production of an active form of testosterone that is associated with this type of baldness.
Scarring alopecia is also called cicatricial alopecia. In this type of alopecia, there is the permanent destruction of the hair follicles. Early treatment may help prevent this.
This is a rare type of hair loss and only about 3% of hair loss patients suffer from this type of alopecia. It can affect people, who are otherwise healthy, at any age.
It often occurs due to an injury, disease, or x-ray therapy resulting in inflammatory lesions on the scalp.
Other diseases, which can cause scarring alopecia are diseases, such as bacterial or fungal skin infections, lupus, lichen planus, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis of the scalp, or skin cancer affecting the scalp.
The inflammation occurs in the upper part of the hair follicle where the stem cells and sebaceous glands are located.
Once the inflammation destroys the stem cells and sebaceous glands, the hair follicle cannot regenerate and hair from the damaged hair follicle cannot grow back.
These lesions are initially localized and turn diffuse in the chronic form. The whole scalp can become scarred and turn smooth. Once scarring starts, the hair loss is permanent. There is then no treatment.
Treatment should be started early at the onset of the inflammation, which has to be controlled. It consists of oral and topical antibiotics and oral steroids for their anti-inflammatory action.
Toxic alopecia also called anagen effluvium develops when hair growth is disturbed during the anagen phase. The anagen phase is the growing phase of hair and lasts for two to seven years. About 90 percent of the hairs are in the growing anagen phase at any given time.
Hair loss is sudden and affects all the hairs in the anagen phase. The growing hair shaft weakens and breaks.
The causes of toxic alopecia include
- High fever and certain sicknesses,
- Thyroid diseases
- Medications such as thallium, high doses of Vitamin A and retinoids, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Chemotherapy can cause up to 90 percent hair loss.
This type of hair loss is temporary and hair regrows when the causative factors such as treatment with medications or illness end.
Telogen effluvium is also called stress alopecia because it is severe emotional and physiological stress, which causes this type of hair loss.
The onset of this type of hair loss is sudden, and there is a diffuse and heavy loss of hair, which can be witnessed during combing and washing hair.
About 85 to 90% of the hair at any given time is in the growing anagen phase and about 10 to 15 % are in the resting catagen and telogen phases.
Severe stress prematurely causes hair in the anagen or growing phase to go into the telogen phase. This causes the majority of the hairs to move into the telogen phase and are ready to shed.
This is a temporary type of hair loss. Recovery and hair regrowth result once the stress dissolves. Its duration will, therefore, depend on how long the stressful period lasts.
There is no specific medicine to cure telogem effluvium. But you could stick to a nutritious diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, meditate to fight your stress, and follow the general tip to prevent further loss of hair
Female pattern hair loss
Female pattern hair loss, a privilege only of the female gender, is a specific form of hair loss seen in women with androgenetic alopecia.
It is quite common, judging by the fact that about 40% of women by the age of 50 years show signs of hair loss and less than 45% of women reach the age of 80 years with a head full of hair.
The hair thins out on the top of the scalp, but the hairline does not recede much as seen in male pattern baldness. Baldness is rarely seen in women unless there is excessive production of androgens in the body.
The whole picture of female pattern baldness is not yet fully clear, but the reasons suggested are:
- Strong genetic disposition inherited from either parent or both.
- Changes in the levels of the male hormones, androgens, especially after menopause
If left untreated, this type of hair loss is permanent. Minoxidil is the medicine of choice and is the only drug approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat female pattern baldness.
2% concentration of minoxidil is applied to the scalp. It is a long-term treatment and has to be continued because hair loss starts once you stop applying it.
20% of the women experience hair growth while in most women it only slows or stops hair loss.
Tinea capitis is a cutaneous fungal infection commonly seen in toddlers and school-going young children. It is the single largest cause of hair loss in children. It is rare to see this after puberty and in adults.
Tines capitis can cause a patchy type of hair loss, but at times, hair loss over the entire scalp is seen.
It causes inflamed and pus-filled infected sores on the scalp. There may be low-grade fever and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. Hair over these infected areas breaks off and leaves tiny black spots.
Tinea capitis is a type of hair loss caused by a ringworm infection of the scalp.
This hair loss is contagious and spreads by the shared use of combs, brushes, and hats. Once the fungal infection is treated and cured, hair grows back.
Treatment consists of the use of antifungal shampoo twice a week for four weeks. Oral medications include griseofulvin, which is the first drug of choice. Other drugs include terbinafine, itraconazole, and fluconazole.
Traction alopecia is often caused by traction or a pulling force frequently applied to the hair. Among the types of hair loss, this is one type that is caused by ignorance. Applying traction to hair by tying your ponytails tightly causes this type of hair loss mostly on the forehead.
Very tight ponytails or pigtails, tight braids or cornrows, and dreadlocks cause this type of hair loss. This is seen more in teens and young men, and women, especially African American women and girls.
If this is discontinued early enough, you can recover your lost hair growth, but a late correction may not help you much. This is because the traction also affects the hair follicles and if the damage to the hair follicles is beyond repair, you are unlikely to get your hair growth back as before.