Hair Loss

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Hair loss (also known as alopecia) was thought to be only a problem that affected men, however new research has shown that up to 60% of women also suffer from hair loss to a certain degree.

The most common cause of hair loss in both men and women is male/female pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia).

For the most part, hair loss is a normal part of the ageing process but for some men and women affected, baldness can be very distressing, especially if it occurs at an early stage in life.

Hair loss in men:
Male pattern baldness is a condition that affects most men at some point in their lives.
It is thought to affect 95% of these with alopecia so nearly all men suffer from certain amount of baldness by the time they are in their 60s.  Hair loss in men is mostly associated with the ageing process, although it is not just a problem that affects the elderly population only.  Some men can start experiencing hair loss while they are in their 20s, with half of all men suffering by the age of 50 years.  Around 3/10 of men in their 30s and about ½ of men in their 50s can be quite bald.

Signs of male pattern baldness in men are:

1) Thinning at the front, side of the hair or temples (a receding hairline)

2) Thinning at the crown. A bald patch will gradually develop in the middle of the scalp.

3) The receding front and sides, are gradually joined together with the hair loss at the crown as it enlarges.

4) These areas of thinning can progress until it leaves a “horseshoe shape” around the head or the head becomes completely bald.

Hair loss in women:
Female pattern baldness, just as in men, it can be due to hair loss in women.
Normally women are affected after the menopause due to the low levels of the hormone oestrogen, and not before.

The only difference between male and female pattern baldness, is that women’s hair tends to thin all over their heads rather than in specific places only.

CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS:

Male pattern boldness, is an inherited condition caused by a sensitivity to the effects of a specific hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
What this hormone does, is shorten the growth phase of the hair’s normal cycle, therefore causing the hair follicles to shrink and produce thinner and thinner hairs, which will eventually stop growing altogether.

Female pattern baldness, can occur after the menopause because of the low oestrogen levels, which counteracts the balding effect of the hormone testosterone.

There are also other causes for hair loss in women and this include:

- Emotional anxiety and stress

- Childbirth

- Poor diet

Ofcourse, these three conditions are reversible and the hair loss will only be temporary.
Once the causative factor has been addressed, the hair should grow back as it was before.

This type of hair loss is known as telogen effluvium.

Warning: Anybody, whether male or female, who suffer from sudden or unexplained hair loss, or if the hair loss does not appear to be due to pattern baldness, or if a woman is pregnant or breast-feeding and if they are using any prescribed medication, should always seek medical advise before using any treatments for hair loss.

TREATMENT FOR HAIR LOSS:

While there is no real cure for male/female pattern boldness, it can be treated using topical products containing minoxidil.

Minoxidil Solution:
This particular solution is available in two different strengths:

- Minoxidil 2% solution (regular strength)

- Minoxidil 5% solution (extra strength)

The regular solution is both licensed for use by men and women, whilst the extra strength solution in only licensed for the treatment in men.

It needs to be rubbed on the scalp twice a day in order to get the results desired.

The treatment needs to be used constantly and indefinitely, since any re-grown hair will fall out again after two months, if the treatment is stopped.

You must leave 12 hours between applications (preferably once in the morning and once in the evening - about 30 minutes before going to bed)

Make sure you use it as directed in the product:

- Apply to a dry scalp and massage gently into the scalp, not the hair.

- Use a 1ml dose every time.

Unfortunately there might be more hair lost in the first few weeks of treatment. This is often normal and a sign that hair follicles are making way for new hair.

- You must be very patient when using hair loss treatments and do no expect them to work instantly. It can take several months before you notice any difference.

- Always use good quality hair products to keep the hair healthy.

- Try to avoid getting the treatment into your eyes during applications, if some does come into contact with the eyes, rinse with plenty of water.

Minoxidil is the only over the counter (OTC) medicine proven to help prevent further hair loss in 4/5 men and women, and in some people, even help re-grow hair.

Basically, it works by increasing the supply of blood and nutrients to the hair follicles.
This helps strengthen existing hair and stimulate growth.
The end result will show thicker, longer and more visible hair.

Unfortunately, minoxidil does not work for everyone. Reason for this depends on different factors:

- Predominance of inherited hair loss in the family.

- Length of time the person has been losing their hair for.

- Specific type of hair loss they might have.

- The amount of hair lost on the scalp.

Warning: Minoxidil can not be used by everyone!

- Monoxidil is only suitable for people over the age of 18 years or under the age of 60 years.

- People using other medications without consulting their doctors first, should not use the treatment especially those using medication for high blood pressure.

- Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding must not use the treatment.

- The extra strength solution (5%) is only suitable for use by men.

- Monoxidil should not be apply to the scalp if it is red, inflamed, irritated, infected, painful or shaven. 

- If the hair loss is sudden or patchy it could be due to other reasons, seek medical advise if you do not know the cause of your hair loss.

- People suffering from heat disease, angina or blood pressure can not use this treatment.

- You should not use hair loss treatments if the hair loss if due to anaemia, fungal infections, thyroid problems or because you are receiving cancer treatment.

FOOD SUPPLEMENTS:

There are food supplements available to buy at any pharmacy that may help maintain healthy hair.

There are products containing certain natural ingredients which can help with hair loss (e.g. marine-based extract of proteins and polysaccharides; vitamin C; Silica which is a mineral present in connective tissue and which plays a role in reducing hair loss and maintaining strong , healthy hair; Horsetail plant extract, which is an organic from of silica, to help maintain healthy hair)

Some homeopathic remedies such as Sepia can be useful to help hair loss in women.

FACTS ABOUT HAIR:

Physiologically, the hair is dead. Only the root of the hair is growing but it can be a barometer of your general state of health.

All hairs are produced from small nodules (called papillas) at the base of the follicles (small indentations) in the skin, which are connected to a blood supply.

The size of a follicle in the scalp, dictates the thickness of the hair while its shape determines whether the hair is straight, wavy or curly.

Hair is mainly made out of a protein called keratin, which has a life span of between a few months to several years before it starts to fall out. This can depend on the diet and treatment of the hair.

Follicles rest for up to six months before producing a new hair.

There are 100000 -150000 hair follicles on the head.

We lose 50 -150 hairs per day.

Hairs grow at the rate of about a ½ in (1cm) per month and a little faster in warm weather.

A biotin rich drink of bananas blended with honey, yoghurt and lo-fat milk can help regenerate hair follicles, but it does not cure any underlying conditions, or stress-related hair loss.

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