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What is Hair loss?

Hair loss is an unpleasant condition wherein the person starts losing hair from the scalp (or even the entire body). It is quite normal to lose up to 100 hair strands each day, as these are replaced by new growing hair. However, the problem occurs when hair loss is higher than the new growth. This is fairly frequent in males. When hair loss is excessive, it can lead to baldness.

What are its main associated signs and symptoms?

Hair loss is usually a symptom that represents some underlying disease. Hair loss is associated with certain other symptoms, which include:

  • Hair fall can happen in different patterns
    • Male or female- pattern balding
    • Patches of complete baldness on the scalp
    • Patchy hair loss
    • Full body hair loss
  • Scaling and dryness of scalp
  • Itchy scalp
  • Dryness of hair and split ends

What are its main causes?

Hair loss is quite common and has multiple causes associated with. Some of the common causes include:

  • Hereditary – a strong family history of hair loss in parents can increase the chances of hair loss
  • Hormonal changes (more common in males) leading to male pattern balding near the temples and at the crown
  • Infections of scalp like fungal infections
  • Iatrogenic (medicine induced) – commonly seen with chemotherapy agents, anti-depressive drugs, etc.
  • Radiation therapy
  • Stress –emotional stress is the leading cause of hair loss
  • Nutritional deficiencies – deficiency of vitamin E, zinc, selenium etc. can result in hair loss
  • Hair treatment – frequent use of hair colours, straightening agents and other chemical treatments can increase the chances of hair loss

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Usually, a thorough medical history and medical examination can give a conclusive diagnosis of the of hair loss. However, some investigations may help in determining the cause of hair loss and the type of therapy that might be helpful in remedying or managing this condition. These investigations include:

  • Blood investigations like vitamin and mineral levels of the blood to check for their deficiencies
  • Pull test and light microscopy – Gentle pull of hair reveals the tensile strength and follicle attachment while microscopy checks for the density of hair follicles along with the structure of the hair shaft
  • Scalp biopsy – This helps in determining the cause like infections

Hair loss treatment is purely dependent on the causative factor. In certain conditions, a cure cannot be achieved, but supportive therapies can be used. Treatment modalities for hair loss include

  • Medications – include supplements like multivitamin tablets having zinc, selenium, vitamin E etc.; Minoxidil, Finasteride, hormone replacement drugs etc.
  • Laser therapy – Exposing scalp to laser rays improve hair density
  • Transplant surgery – A small patch of the scalp skin having dense hair is taken and transplanted to the area of hair loss
  • Hair Weaving
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