Get to grips with hair loss

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The average person sheds more than a hundred hairs per day. This is no real cause for concern, as long as your body is replenishing these losses. When your hair starts shedding excessively, then it’s time to worry. 

Alopecia is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting hair follicles, resulting in areas of hair loss. These separate areas may merge to form larger areas. The most commonly affected site is the scalp, but in rare cases, the whole body, including pubic hair, may be affected. This is called alopecia universalis.

Alopecia affects men and women equally. Most patients are below the age of 30 at the outset.

Male pattern baldness, the most common form of alopecia, is a common source of emotional distress! In fact, man’s obsession with hair dates back to 3500BC. From ancient biblical times to the Roman period, the specter of male pattern baldness has reared its ugly head. Julius Caesar was preoccupied with his hair loss and grew his hair long in the back and combed it all forward. He also wore laurel wreaths to camouflage his baldness.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine made a potion for hair loss, consisting of opium, horseradish, pigeon droppings, beetroot, spices and many other exotic ingredients (it didn’t work). Don’t try that at home... 

He observed that eunuchs (sexually immature men) never became bald. Over two thousand years later, researchers at Duke University showed the association between the male hormone testosterone and male pattern baldness.

Baldness affects the scalp in a “horseshoe” pattern on the top of the head. In the majority of cases, the sides of the head are never lost. In approximately two percent of cases, the condition is spread to the entire scalp (called alopecia totalis). 

What causes baldness?
There’s no single definite-known cause for alopecia, but the most accepted explanation is that it’s an autoimmune condition. Antibodies to hair follicles are frequently present in affected persons: these attack and temporarily damage the follicles, preventing further hair growth.

There’s an association with other autoimmune diseases, (thryoiditis, vitiligo and pernicious anaemia). Up to 20 percent of patients have a family history of alopecia, which suggests a genetic predisposition. You may have this tendency even if your parents have full heads of hair; thanks to a process known as spontaneous mutation, where the genetic information changes at conception.

Triggers for baldness: 

  • Drugs.
  • Vaccination.
  • Infections.
  • Burns.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Surgery. 

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