Hair Loss Causes in Men and Women
When we consider hair loss causes there are numerous explanations for why many people suffer from hair loss during their life time. We have attempted to outline all the current theories pertaining to Androgenetic Alopecia and general balding or loss of hair, from an unbiased prospective.
In the 1940s Dr James Hamilton concluded that the presence of the male hormone androgen and a genetic tendency where the factors that caused the development of Androgenetic Alopecia.
More precisely, the hair follicles of men who are afflicted with male pattern baldness are genetically predetermined to be more susceptible to the harmful effects of a male hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is converted from the enzyme testosterone by the enzymes 5 alpha reductase.It is understood that this hereditary weakness of the hair follicle is passed down genetically through the DNA from generation to generation.
Interestingly enough individuals with a deficiency in 5 alpha reductase do
not develop male pattern baldness, and the hair growth cycle is unaffected.
By studying the tendency or occurrence of baldness in the families of both parents, you will be able to predict your predisposition for hair loss and be able to fully
prepare for the eventuality.
Hair follicles in the scalp are stimulated into growth, shedding and resting phases by a multitude of hormones and enzymes. However, the most important hormones in the hair growth cycle are testosterone and a derivative called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It is this latter substance that attaches to receptors in the hair follicles that appears to play the biggest role in male pattern baldness.
During puberty, testosterone and DHT are responsible for simulating the enlargement and growth of hair follicles on the scalp, underarms, facial areas and pubic area. This stimulation causes the increased hair growth associated with puberty. However, it is believed these same hormones may cause the shrinking of hair follicles later in life.
When a hair is shed the dihydrotestosterone present in the surface sebum, will enter the follicle and react on a chemical level. This chemical reaction produces shrinkage of the follicle and narrowing of the hair shaft. With each new growth cycle the subsequent hairs will be smaller, weaker and finer until eventually the hairs become transparent and stop emerging.
An individual with androgenetic alopecia may have normal levels of testosterone however the activity of 5 alpha reductase is greater than normal, which results in increased amounts of dihydrotestosterone in the hair follicle.
When an individual is experiencing male pattern baldness, as well as being able to visually see a difference in the thickness and coverage, the hairs actually feel thinner to the touch.
Nervous Disorders/ Stress
Stress can be contributed to an array of health problems and afflictions across the globe, including hair loss in men and women. As more individuals report hair loss as a symptom while going through periods of high stress (such as divorce, bereavement, unemployment and even childbirth) more doctors are looking into the medical connection of these two conditions.
Losing your hair can be extremely embarrassing. It can make you feel depressed, undesirable and drained of any self-esteem and motivation. Often is the case with hair loss that the individual begins to lack confidence and seeks to hide their problem, even themselves, from others.
When an individual experiences intense stress, chemicals in the body will transmit signals to the hair follicles, which cause them to enter a resting phase. During this phase there is no new hair growth. In the following few months hair will be shed normally but new growth will not occur to replace lost hair. This uneven pattern can cause hair to appear thinner and more sporadic.
Stress levels can even increase as a result of verbal bullying and hurtful comments, which could lead to health issues notably hair loss.
For many men, baldness can be hugely distressing, and detrimental to their lives, particularly if it is excessive or occurs early in life. Many hair loss treatments do exist however, to combat this problem.
The symptoms can even be compounded if you have a predisposition to male pattern baldness.
Around the time of surgical operations when we feel anxious and stressed, our bodies as a threat induced reaction, diverting nutrients to our major organs; the heart, lungs and muscles. This can result in the hair becoming weakened and hair loss occurs. In severe cases, hair follicles can stop producing new hair altogether.
The Ageing Process
Hair loss is a perfectly normal component of the hair growth cycle; it is common to lose between 50 and 150 hairs daily from hair shedding however these hairs are usually replaced by the growth of new hairs.
As we age, replacement of hair slows down as the rate at which hair follicles replenish themselves starts to dwindle. This echoes the natural slowing of the bodies’ functions as the ability to regenerate decreases.
Protein is synthesised less in the body since less growth and changes are taking place, this could lead to hair falling out and slow rejuvenation of new hair.
It is not uncommon to experience loss of pigmentation from hair as you age. The individual hairs also become thinner and smaller.
Hair loss is more common among ageing men, than women. These losses are influenced by protein, pigment and by the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) –With women, the loss of hair results only in the thinning of hair because of insufficient pigmentation production.
Illness and Infectious Diseases
Ringworm and Hair Loss
Despite the name, ringworm has no connection with actual worms. It causes the appearance of raised ring-like marks on the skin, which are usually reddish in colour and extremely itchy. They can create the feeling of something crawling underneath the skin, hence the name. Scratching is strongly discouraged as it will only aggravate the condition further.
Ringworm is caused by the fungus dermatophytis. There are many closely related types of this fungus and it can grow anywhere on the body, but the type that causes hair loss is specific to the scalp.
It is highly infectious and easily transmitted from person to person in warm, moist environments like public swimming pools, but also via domestic animals.
Ringworm feeds on dead skin, producing an acidic waste by-product that damages healthy skin and hair follicles. Patches of very
short, broken hair are a clear sign of ringworm infection, as is circular patches of hair loss that gradually spread outwards. This can lead to allergic reactions and swelling in some sufferers.
It is important to treat ringworm early because prolonged infection can lead to scarring of the scalp. The damaged skin areas make future hair production impossible.
Ringworm is however easily treated with either antifungal pills or topical scalp ointments. Good hygiene practice is highly recommended, avoid sharing combs, brushes, towels or any clothing that touches the affected area.
Seek the advice of your local GP/ doctor if you suspect a ringworm infection.
Cancer and Hair Loss
Although cancer does not typically cause hair loss or damage to the hair follicles, the treatments required often do. With an educated understanding, preparation and attitude towards this devastating disease, the unfortunate side effects and emotional distress caused can be better dealt with.
Chemotherapy and radiation are both cancer treatments that can cause hair loss.
Chemotherapy involves administering powerful drugs into the body to attack cancer cells. The drugs are designed to kill the cancer cells; however, the healthy cells present in the hair follicle are damaged as well, resulting in loss of hair.
Radiation uses high-energy rays to destroy the cancer cells. Hair loss occurs when the treatment is concentrated on the scalp or areas where hair follicles are located and hair loss usually begins after the first treatment.
Seek the advice of your local GP/ doctor if you have concerns and issues.
.....hair slows down as the rate at which hair follicles replenish themselves starts to dwindle.....
Toxic substance abuse/ Alcohol
Consuming high volumes of alcohol on a regular basis is known to increase the risk of susceptibility to serious medical conditions such as Cancer and Diabetes. The recommended daily alcohol allowance for men is two to three units and three to four units for women. Prolonged excesses of alcohol can trigger hair loss directly due to higher oestrogen levels in the blood. The body's ability to absorb and distribute several key nutrients is also hampered by alcohol abuse:
Vitamin C – An essential vitamin required in the production of collagen, which binds hair together. Hair can deteriorate quickly by splitting and fragmenting when levels are too low.
Iron – Depleted levels of iron can cause anaemia, preventing hair follicles receiving adequate nutrients and damaging them structurally.
Zinc – The Sebaceous glands require this trace metal to efficiently secrete sebum oil on to the scalp. Without it, hair becomes brittle and can break easily.
Folic acid – Diminished levels impair hair follicles ability to repair and sustain health. It may also contribute to premature greying.
The morning after the night before can harbour more serious issues than just a headache or upset stomach. Oestrogen levels tend to peak when you are hung-over and the body is usually dehydrated, which will inevitably damage your scalp hair.
Thankfully, permanent damage can be avoided by moderating your alcohol consumption, drinking more water and orchestrating a Healthy Diet and exercise schedule. Over time your hair should able to recover successfully.
The accumulation of naturally occurring oil called sebum is believed to clog and block hair follicles on the scalp, asphyxiating the hair root leading to impaired hair growth.
Japanese researchers have discovered a correlation between excessive sebum in the scalp and hair loss, attributing the thinning and eventual loss of hair to an enlargement of the sebaceous gland. Research has shown excessive sebum causes a high level of 5-alpha reductase which when converted to DHT produces male pattern baldness.
The scalp needs to be cleaned properly and regularly as part of your hair care management, to ensure this oil does not build up to detrimental levels. One daily application of a mild shampoo should be sufficient for most people to maintain clean hair.
Injury and Impairment
Trichotillomania is a type of anxiety disorder in which the sufferer is compelled to tug or pull on their own hair. The hair strands are pulled out of the root leading to noticeable bald spots on the scalp. It is a potentially difficult condition to treat and deal with, because of the emotional and mental attachment.
The more knowledge you have about the disorder and its symptoms the better equipped you will be to accept it and apply treatment. An excellent way to educate yourself and others about trichotillomaina is through local support groups, where fellow sufferers share their stories of coping with the illness. It is a great medium for friendship, discussion, help and support. A brilliant, sometimes more accessible method is the use of books, which many sufferers find an invaluable resource.
Local support groups can be located through the phone book, through online Internet searches, through doctor or therapist referrals and through local health care facility referrals.
The most important coping mechanism when dealing with tricholtillomania is therapy; self-talk therapy and Habit Reversal Techniques (HRT).
Self-talk therapy involves repeating positive phrases or statements to yourself when the compulsion to pull your hair begins to overtake your thoughts. This technique must be practiced many times a day in conjunction with other therapies to see positive results.
Habit Reversal Techniques, HRT, has three steps, each of which need to be mastered separately and then combined for real effectiveness.
Many tricholtillomania sufferers pull their hair completely unaware of their actions. Keep a diary of events, detailing every hair pulling incident and include circumstances surrounding the hair pulling (location, time, etc) for one to two weeks.
The individual is taught breathing exercises and muscle relaxation techniques, deep breathing for sixty seconds and manually relaxing all major muscle groups during times of stress or anxiety. Only after mastering this technique should you attempt the final phase.
3) Restrictive Force
Clench the hand into a tight fist and press the arm strongly into the side of the body each time a hair pulling compulsion surfaces, holding this restrictive position until the compulsion subsides.
With the proper therapy, support and education many individuals can learn to cope and overcome their trichotillomania affliction.
Hair loss due to radiation exposure, whether accidentally or as cancer treatment, is often extensive and irreversible.
Accidental exposure from either a lab accident or contaminated area will often produce early symptoms of nausea, weakness and loss of hair in clumps. If this is apparent seek urgent medical attention.
Controlled exposure in a hospital produces predictable results such as; itchy scalp, immediate balding and shedding for up to two weeks, although hair loss severity and symptoms can vary from individual to individual. Consult your GP/ Doctor for further advice and support on this subject.
Severe radiation can damage all the cells in the body, in particular cells that divide frequently. Cancer cells divide and replicate quicker than normal healthy tissue, so radiation successfully destroys these cells. Unfortunately, fast-dividing hair follicle cells are also affected, occasionally leading to permanent damage.
As hair regrows after a radiation exposure, it is advised to keep the hair short and wash no more than twice a week with a gentle shampoo. Avoid using curling irons or blow dryers, as these tools can over-dry your hair and cause breakage. The follicles are still very delicate, so in order to aid recovery and achieve long term activeness; the hair strain must be keep to a minimal.
Many patients who lose their hair during radiotherapy, experience some form of hair regrowth within three to six months after the treatment ceases. The radioactive therapy can alter the follicle structure and the surrounding blood vessel network that supplies essential nutrients.
In some instances, new hair may be a different colour, thickness and even structure from the patient’s original hair, although why not embrace these changes, accept the colour, texture and feel of your new hair and celebrate your victory over hair loss.
Inadequate blood flow to the scalp, insufficient nutrients in the blood and poor drainage of waste products through the lymphatic systems can all contribute to impaired hair growth cycles and increased loss of hair.
When the hair root is well supplied with blood it is stronger and less susceptible to the shrinking effects caused by DHT. Good blood flow strengthens and rejuvenates the small blood vessels in the scalp increasing the longevity of the hair follicles and enhancing the overall hair health and vitality, this directly affects hair loss.
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