Baldness: Causes and Treatment
Baldness typically refers to excessive hair loss from your scalp. Hair loss (alopecia) can affect just the scalp or the whole body. It can be caused by heredity, certain medications or any underlying medical condition. Hair loss is equally prevalent among women and men.
Hair loss is most often unnoticeable and is left untreated. The lost hair is normally replaced by new hair but not always. It can develop gradually or abruptly. It can also be permanent or temporary. Since it is impossible to count strands of hair lost in a day, you may be losing than normal if large amount of hair drains after washing or clumps of hair are seen in the brush or you notice unusual thinning of your hair.
There are lots of options available to cope up with hair loss. Others may cover it up with hairstyles, makeup, hats or scarves. If excessive hair loss is noticed, seeing a doctor is recommended to discuss best available treatment plans.
- Significant family history
- Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, childbirth or menopause
- Medical conditions such as alopecia areata (an autoimmune that attacks hair follicles) and scalp infections and thyroid problems
- Medications used to treat cancer, heart attack and depression
- Physical or emotional shock
- Deficiency in protein and iron
Test and Diagnosis
Persistent hair loss is often indicates an underlying problem. A complete medical history, family history and physical examination can help in a diagnosis. The pattern and rate of hair loss, the appearance of nearby hairs, and accompanying symptoms are also considered when making the diagnosis.
If an autoimmune or skin disease is suspected, a biopsy of the skin on the scalp is taken. This will involve carefully removing a small section of skin for laboratory testing. It is important to keep in mind that hair growth is a complex process, so it may take time to determine the exact cause of your hair loss.
Blood test can also be performed to determine if it is caused by medical conditions such as thyroid disease, diabetes or lupus.
For some types of hair loss, hair may resume growth without any treatment. In other situations, treatments may help promote hair growth or hide hair loss.
Usually, the first course of treatment for hair loss is medications. Over-the-counter medications generally consist of topical creams and gels that are applied directly to the scalp. A drug called Minoxidil (Rogaine) is commonly used. It achieves the best results when used in conjunction with other hair loss treatments. Side effects of minoxidil include scalp irritation and hair growth in adjacent areas like your forehead or face.
In the most common type of permanent hair loss, only the top of the head is affected. Surgical procedures can make the most of the hair you have left. Surgical procedures available are hair transplants and scalp reduction. The procedures are expensive and can be painful. Possible risks include infection and scarring.
Wigs and hairpieces can be an alternative to medical treatment. They can be used to cover either permanent or temporary hair loss. Quality, natural-looking wigs and hairpieces are available. Eating a well-balanced diet is also helpful.