The primary cause of hair loss is pinned normally at the genes, aging process or the family history of the effected individual. Our scalp has about 100,000 hairs and normally people lose about 150 to 100 hairs a day. A loss of such a little amount of hair is not noticeable and is considered normal because the hair keep on regenerating themselves.
Hair loss factors include a poor dietary pattern, internal diseases, an injury or hormonal changes taking place in the human body. Sometimes the hair follicles produce thinner hair of a shorter length. An irritation to the hair follicle can also cause the follicle to separate from the scalp and fall off.
The scalp hair follicles grow in the following phases
Anagen: This is the active growth phase of the hair follicle and is for about 2-3 years. The hair grows for about 1 cm in a months’ time in this period.
Catagen: It is a transition stage signaling the end of active growth period of a hair. At this time the hair starts to break down. This takes place for about 2-3 weeks.
Telogen: This is the resting period that lasts for about 3-4 months. The hair does not grow at this time and are ready for shedding. After the shedding of the hair the cycle begins from the Anagen phase again.
Men and women can start to realize that hair thinning starts at about 35 years. Gradual thinning is natural but if the hair fall is more than the hair growth it can lead to baldness. Baldness can also set in if the new hair follicle is much thinner than the previous hair. Hair loss also takes place at times of duress, pregnancy, puberty, menopause, thyroid diseases, iron deficiencies, immune suppressants, or due to chemotherapy drugs.
Reasons for hair fall
Nutritional deficiency due to protein and iron can lead to severe hair loss. Eating disorders, diets and some ailments lead to a poor nutritional platform for the body. Iron deficiency anemia, or lack of proteins in the daily diet can promote hair loss. People follow protein- free diets to lose weight. They may encourage abnormal eating habits like eating excess of junk foods.
In such cases the human body needs to save the protein in the body. The body saves stored protein by putting the hair follicle into the Telogen phase. The hair follicle then loses its grip on the scalp and falls off easily. Anemic people often complain of hair loss. Iron deficiency can be due to lack of iron in diet or lack of iron absorption by the body. Iron medications can help combat the iron deficiency and soon the hair starts to grow again.
Illnesses and Diseases
Diseases like lupus and diabetes can lead to excess falling of hair. Sometimes severe infections, flu, viral fevers etc can cause a lot of shedding of hair.
Hormone imbalance caused due to the thyroid gland leads to hair loss. An over active or an under active thyroid is responsible for loosing hair. There is a hormone change that takes place in the body due to pregnancy, menopause, puberty, thyroid malfunction, childbirth, consumption of birth control pills. All these can lead to an abnormal hair condition.
Drugs and medications
Medications used for the treatment of blood pressure, heart, arthritis, depression, gout can lead to loss of hair. Immunosuppressant drugs and drugs used for fighting cancer do not promote hair growth. The growth of hair is stunted with radiation and chemotherapy drugs.
Infection of the scalp
Fungal infections of the scalp are largely responsible for loss of hair. They can be treated by anti fungal medications. They can be caused by ring worm and symptoms include broken hair, redness and swelling of scalp.
Psychological disorders, like trichotillomania prompts the patient to pull out hair on any part of the body. This pulling of hair from the eyebrows, scalp or other parts of the body leads to patchy hair growth.
Other reasons for a general loss in hair could be the beauty parlor visits. Harsh hair treatments like bleaching, straightening, dying, tinting, and hot rollers used on the hair can lead to weak brittle hair. Excess combing and over styling also damage the hair. This is also called traction alopecia.
Some other specific hair conditions leading to thinning and shedding of hair
Androgenetic alopecia: This is commonly termed as the pattern hair loss or pattern baldness. IT is found in males and females both. IN this the hair growth period lessens, the hair are thin, not deep rooted and fall out easily. The causes for this can be genetic. Growth pattern of hair and the age of hair loss can be hereditary.
Alopecia Areata: This shows up as round bald patches on the scalp. It is listed under auto immune disorders with no causative factors. It is a disease that affects any age group and generally triggered off by another factor like a viral infection or environmental condition. Hair vitamins can help solve the problem of hair fall in this case. Alopecia Areata childbirth is the period 2-3 after childbirth when a lot of hairs are shed.
Scarring alopecia: Cicatricial or scarring alopecia leads to permanent hair loss because of inflammation and scarring of the hair follicle. Causative factors for scarring alopecia are not known. Conditions like lupus erythematosus and lichen planus affecting the skin show scarring alopecia in people.
Telogen effluvium: As the name suggests, a physical or mental shock to the individual forces the hair into the resting phase before time. The hairs start to fall out in such a case for two to three months. A death, psychological stress, weight loss, metabolic disturbances, high fever, extreme duress, deficiencies or surgery make the hair fall. This is a reversible condition.
Hair problems can be treated by a good dermatologist specializing in hair, skin and nail problems. Diagnosis can be made by laboratory tests and in severe cases a scalp biopsy can be performed. Dermatologists are qualified doctors and can make diagnosis and provide treatments.