Monday, December 12, 2011
Health Care and Hair Loss
According to WebMD, hair loss, or alopecia, is a concern for anyone experiencing it. The cause of hair loss varies. Treatments for hair loss include medications such as Proscar, Propecia, and Rogaine, hair replacements, and hair restoration. Hair loss can be caused by any number of conditions, reflected in a specific diagnosis. Some diagnoses have alopecia in their title, such as alopecia areata or scarring alopecia, but many do not, such as telogen effluvium. Alopecia can be caused by many factors from genetics to drugs. While androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness, AGA for short) is by far the most common form of hair loss, dermatologists also see many people with other forms of alopecia. Several hundred diseases have hair loss as a primary symptom.
Probably the most common non-AGA alopecias a dermatologist will see are telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, ringworm, scarring alopecia, and hair loss due to cosmetic overprocessing. Other, more rare forms of hair loss may be difficult to diagnose, and some patients may wait months, even years for a correct diagnosis and undergo consultation with numerous dermatologists until they find one with knowledge of their condition. Plus, with rare diseases, there is little motivation for research to be conducted and for treatments to be developed. Often, even when a correct diagnosis is made, a dermatologist can offer no known treatment for the condition.
Research into hair biology and hair diseases is a very small field, and even research on androgenetic alopecia is quite limited. Perhaps 20 years ago there were fewer than 100 people worldwide who studied hair research in a major way. In recent years, there may be five times as many. This is still a small number compared to, say, diabetes research, but the expanding numbers of researchers investigating hair biology is positive, and eventually should lead to a better understanding and more help for those with rare alopecias, according to WebMD.
According to FamilyDoctor.org, A number of things can cause excessive hair loss. For example, about 3 or 4 months after an illness or a major surgery, you may suddenly lose a large amount of hair. This hair loss is related to the stress of the illness and is temporary. Hormonal problems may cause hair loss. If your thyroid gland is overactive or underactive, your hair may fall out. This hair loss usually can be helped by treatment thyroid disease. Hair loss may occur if male or female hormones, known as androgens and estrogens, are out of balance. Correcting the hormone imbalance may stop your hair loss.
Many women notice hair loss about 3 months after they've had a baby. This loss is also related to hormones. During pregnancy, high levels of certain hormones cause the body to keep hair that would normally fall out. When the hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels, that hair falls out and the normal cycle of growth and loss starts again. Some medicines can cause hair loss. This type of hair loss improves when you stop taking the medicine. Medicines that can cause hair loss include blood thinners (also called anticoagulants), medicines used for gout, high blood pressure or heart problems, vitamin A (if too much is taken), birth control pills and antidepressants. Certain infections can cause hair loss. Fungal infections of the scalp can cause hair loss in children. The infection is easily treated with antifungal medicines. Finally, hair loss may occur as part of an underlying disease, such as lupus or diabetes. Since hair loss may be an early sign of a disease, it is important to find the cause so that it can be treated.
Hair loss in children is more common than most people realize, according to WebMD. Currently children's hair loss is responsible for about 3% of all pediatric office visits in this country. The American Hair loss Association recognizes that children's hair loss can be an extremely devastating issue. However, you can take solace in knowing that most pediatric alopecia patients can be successfully treated with the proper diagnosis. The ALHA recommends seeking the advice of your pediatrician as soon as you notice the onset of even the smallest amount of hair loss in your child.
A complete medical history, family history and physical examination can help in a diagnosis, according to the Mayo Clinic. The pattern and rate of hair loss, the appearance of nearby hairs (for example, if hairs are broken off), and accompanying symptoms are considered when making the diagnosis. Tests may be necessary if the cause isn't apparent after the examination. These include:
--Pull test: Several dozen hairs are gently pulled to see how many come out. This helps determine the stage of the shedding process and can help diagnose or rule out telogen effluvium.
--Skin scrapings: Samples taken from the skin or from a few hairs plucked from the scalp can help verify whether an infection is causing hair loss.
--Punch biopsy: When a diagnosis is difficult to confirm, especially in the case of alopecia areata or scarring alopecia, your doctor may perform a punch biopsy. During this test, the doctor uses a circular tool to remove a small section of your skin's deeper layers.
--Screening tests for related diseases: Your doctor may perform tests to determine if you have a medical condition that causes hair loss, such as thyroid disease, diabetes or lupus. Your doctor may also ask questions about the types of medications you're taking.
--Sometimes hair loss is a side effect of certain drugs, such as those that treat gout, arthritis, depression, heart problems and high blood pressure.
According to FamilyDoctor.org, Depending on your type of hair loss, treatments are available. If a medicine is causing your hair loss, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine. Recognizing and treating an infection may help stop the hair loss. Correcting a hormone imbalance may prevent further hair loss. Medicines may also help slow or prevent the development of common baldness. One medicine, minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine), is available without a prescription. It is applied to the scalp. Both men and women can use it. Another medicine, finasteride, is available with a prescription. It comes in pills and is only for men. It may take up to 6 months before you can tell if one of these medicines is working. If adequate treatment is not available for your type of hair loss, you may consider trying different hairstyles or wigs, hairpieces, hair weaves or artificial hair replacement.
According to the Mayo Clinic, The following tips can help keep your hair healthy and may minimize the appearance of hair loss:
--Eat a nutritionally balanced diet.
--Handle your hair gently. Whenever possible, allow your hair to air-dry naturally.
--Avoid tight hairstyles, such as braids, buns or ponytails.
--Avoid compulsively twisting, rubbing or pulling your hair.
--Check with hair care experts about hairpieces or styling techniques that help minimize the effects of balding.
--The over-the-counter (nonprescription) medication minoxidil (Rogaine) promotes new hair growth and prevents further hair loss in a small percentage of people. Other over-the-counter hair growth products have no proven benefit.
According to the American Hair Loss Association (AHLA), the following organizations are the only hair loss related non-profit or consumer organizations currently recognized by AHLA:
1. The American Academy of Dermatology : http://www.aad.org/
2. International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons : http://www.iahrs.org/
3. National Alopecia Areata Foundation : http://www.naaf.org/
4. Children's Alopecia Project : http://www.childrensalopeciaproject.org/
5. The Bald Truth : http://www.thebaldtruth.com/
6. The Rapunzel Project : http://www.rapunzelproject.org/
For more information about this organization, go to their site: http://www.americanhairloss.org/ .
Until next time.