The human hair undergoes three stages of growth called anagen, catagen and telogen. Each of them has distinct characteristics that determine the development of each hair strand. Once the cycle is completed, it will start again and another hair strand will begin to form.
The stages occur simultaneously so one hair strand may be in the anagen phase while the other is in catagen phase. The anagen phase is also known as the growth stage. This phase begins in papilla, which is made up of a capillary loop and connective tissue, which serves as the base of hair follicle.
The anagen phase can last up to six years, depending on the genes. During this stage, the papilla cells divide in order to produce new hair fibers. The follicle will then burry itself to the skin’s dermal layer so as to nourish the strand. A person’s head can have about 85% of hair strands that are in anagen phase at any given time.
The catagen phase begins when the anagen phase ended. The shift of phase is determined by the signals sent out by the person’s body. During this transitional stage, the follicle is allowed to renew itself. The process includes the shrinking of hair follicle because of disintegration, and the detaching and resting of papilla which cuts the hair off from the nourishment of blood supply.
This process will last up to 14 days. The hair doesn’t grow during this phase; there is an increase in terminal fiber’s length as the follicle pushes them upward. The telogen phase is considered to be the resting stage of hair where in the hair growth remains dormant for within 1 to 4 months. Up to fifteen percent of a person’s hair is at this stage at any given time.
When the telogen phase has ended, the anagen phase will start again. The hair strand will be pushed up and out as the new strand starts to grow. This process is called shedding, which is the normal cause of hair fall.
Causes of Hair Fall
There are many factors that cause hair fall and they differ in men and women. According to studies, it is normal for a person to lose up to 150 hair strands in a day. The hair strands that fall are under the telogen phase.
Generally speaking, hair fall is usually associated with family history, genetic factors, and overall process of aging. Men and women may notice a mild thinning of hair during their thirties and forties. In other cases, hair loss may be caused by internal diseases or poor diet.
Most women experienced hair loss by severe stress and hormonal changes like puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Health conditions such as anemia and thyroid disease can also cause hair loss.
But people who are undergoing thyroid blood tests and other kinds of lab tests are still advised see a doctor for underlying causes in sudden hair loss especially if the case is severe.
Dermatologists may provide an advanced diagnosis and treatment for hair loss. In some cases, scalp biopsy is recommended to diagnose a severe or unexplained cause of hair loss.
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Classifying Hair Loss
There are plenty of ways to classify hair loss. Here are some ways that will help you determine the kind of hair loss that you’re experiencing.
Patchy Hair Loss
Patchy hair loss is the condition wherein only a small area of scalp is affected by the hair loss. Patchy hair loss is categorized in different groups: alopecia areata, traction alopecia, trichotillomania and tinea capitis.
This condition usually begins as a small circle patch of baldness. The hair will regrow from the bald scalp within three months without any treatment. Sometimes, the regrown hair color is white.
In some cases, alopecia areata can produce two or more patches. When the hair regrows from them, another patch will appear. The most severe condition is called alopecia total is wherein the entire scalp goes bald.
This condition may affect other parts of the body such as the eyebrow or beard. Professionals consider the alopecia areata condition to be autoimmune, wherein the body is attacking itself and in this case its own follicles.
However, people who are experiencing this condition don’t have any systematic problem therefore they don’t need to undergo medical tests. Steroid injection in small amounts is one of the considered treatments for alopecia areata.
It is injected on affected areas in order to stimulate hair growth sooner but it’s not as effective on large patches. Oral steroids, ultraviolet light therapy or immuno suppresives can be provided to severe cases of alopecia areata but some people don’t like it due to its potential risk and side effects on health.
Usually, people would just comb over the affected area for mild cases while people with severe cases use hairpieces. Some men shave off their whole head since this has become fashionable nowadays.
Traction alopecia is another hair loss condition that is primarily caused by pulling of hair strands from the scalp. It commonly results from using barrettes on hair or frequently wearing it in a tight ponytail or braids.
Hair weaves can pose more danger to people who are suffering from traction alopecia. Hair weave is commonly known as artificial hair integration which includes the use of hair extensions or hair hat.
Hair extension is a process of lengthening someone’s hair by connecting artificial hair strands. Sometimes it involves braiding the hair around the scalp or attaching a wig or other types of hairpieces.
It is done in order to change the appearance of hair without looking unrealistic. In the process of using hair weaves, the hair could get stressed by pulling out and reattaching hair pieces on hair, which causes them to fall out.
This condition is common on African women since they usually wear their hair in tight braids. People who are suffering from this condition have bald scalp around the temples and the side of head. Wearing of safety helmets tightly can also cause Traction Alopecia.
The constant rubbing of helmet on the hairline can slowly pull the hair out. It can usually occur on people who wears helmet frequently like bikers, swimmers and runners.
Men thogen, which contains scalp vasodilators, can help in treating this hair loss condition by promoting healthy blood supply on the balding areas.
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Trichotillomania is a condition wherein the person has an irresistible urge to pull his or her hair out. It has been classified by DSM-IV as impulse control disorder and it’s usually difficult to treat. It can be present on infants and children from 9 to 10 years old.
The condition is often triggered by stress or depression. The condition usually happens when the person is in a trance-like state hence it’s been subdivided into focused and automatic hair pulling.
Tinea Capitis is commonly known as ringworm of the hair. It is a fungal infection on the scalp which is usually caused by dermatophytes and microsporum genera that occupy the hair shaft.
It appears as a single or multiple patches on the scalp, sometimes with black dot pattern that have broken-off hair strands. The dots are usually accompanied by scaling, itching, pustules and inflammation.
Generalized Hair Loss
The diffuse or generalized hair loss is an overall hair thinning that doesn’t come with bald patterns or spots. This condition may not be visible to others but the patient will feel that his or her hair is not as full or thick as it was before.
The common conditions included in this category are:
Telogen Iffluvin – as discussed in chapter one, the telogen phase is the stage where the hair strand falls and is replaced with a new one. In Telogen Iffluvin, the patient undergoes a rapid shredding after sudden weight loss, giving birth or fever.
Androgenetic Hair Loss – the baldness begins above the temples and calvaria or vertex of the scalp. The hair on the side of head remains as the condition progresses. It can affect up to 70% of men and 40% of women.