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Hair Loss 101

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hair is usually the least of our concerns when it comes to our health...that is of course until we start losing it. Excessive hair loss, or alopecia, can be attributed to a number of things such as: thyroid, diabetes, hormone imbalance, genetic predisposition, fungal infection, emotional stress and even blood thinning and anti-depression medicines. Our hair is made of a protein called Keratin. Hair Follicle cross-section diagram Our head scalp contains over 100,000 individual hairs which is made of keratin cells being accumulated by our hair follicles; as new keratin cells are produced the old cells are pushed out of the epidermis, the outer skin layer, and are exposed through as hair. Our hair grows approximately 6 inches per year; and we lose around 100+ hairs a day, but don't be alarmed because for a normal, healthy scalp 90% of the hair is continually growing. The hair growth life cycle is divided into 3 stages:

  1. Anagen stage - active hair growth; lasts 4 - 7 years where the hair grows 1/2 inch per month
  2. Catagen stage - transitional; lasts 2 - 3 weeks
  3. Telogen stage - resting phase; lasts 3 - 4 months where the hair is replaced by a new one and the hair growth cycle starts over again

There are many types of hair loss:

  • Androgenetic Alopecia - this is the most common type of hair loss, also called Male (or Female) Patterned Baldness (MPB). Typical symptom is receding hair on the crown of the head.
  • Telogen Effluvium - the next most common type of alopecia is the Telogen Effluvium (TE). TE is commonly related to severe or sudden stress which will cause scalp hair to shed. Although common in both men and women, TE affects women mostly during the stresses of childbirth. Eliminating the stress factor or restoring normal blood circulation to the hair follicles of the scalp will usually cause the hair to grow back.
  • Alopecia Areata - not as common is this auto-immune hair disease where the scalp experiences patchy hair loss. Severe cases will cause all the scalp hair to fall off.
  • Anagen Effuvium - occurs as a result of exposure to chemicals or radiation, such as Radiation or Chemotherapy treatments. This condition is only temporary and does not require any treatment. The hair will grow back and return to normal, or sometimes even healthier, once the radiation or chemotherapy is finished.
  • Traction Alopecia - also known as Trichotillomania is a self-induced hair loss due to the tensile stresses caused by the excessive pulling of the hair. This occurs due to various types of hairstyling such as: braiding, cornrows, ponytails and buns. Permanent hair loss may occur due to the weakening of the hair roots. Treatment can simply be regular hair scalp exercises to increase blood circulation in order to strengthen the scalp and hair roots.
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