Why is hair loss important?
Hair is an important element of our identity and is seen historically as a symbol of health, wealth, and fertility. So, what happens when a person starts to lose their hair? With so much emphasis on how a person looks, inevitably for some people hair loss will be psychologically devastating. Hair loss is a common condition that presents to dermatology clinics with psychological, emotional, and social consequences.
Is all hair loss the same?
There are several types of hair loss and the reasons behind them include a complex interplay of genetics, hormonal influences, underlying medical conditions, and often, no cause can be found. Some common types of hair loss include:
- Alopecia areata – a specific form of hair loss occurring in rounded patches on the scalp, can also involve hair loss from other parts of the face and torso (e.g. eyebrows, eyelashes, beard).
- Telogen effluvium – this is a temporary type of hair loss seen after a trigger (e.g. illness, pregnancy, stressful life event).
- Androgenetic alopecia – this is the most common type of progressive hair loss that occurs in both sexes. Affected people experience hair thinning over time, males around the temples and back of the scalp, and females around the top and front of the scalp.
- Scarring alopecia’s – this is a type of hair loss caused by damage to the hair follicle (e.g. due to infection or an autoimmune process). Scar tissue replaces the hair follicle, causing potentially irreversible hair loss. Scarring alopecia is an umbrella term that covers specific disorders affecting the hair follicle (e.g. lichen planopilaris, folliculitis decalvans).
I think I have hair loss, what should I do?
If you are worried about hair loss it is a good idea to visit a doctor that has knowledge about this problem. This would ideally be your general practitioner or a dermatologist. You may need to have some simple blood tests to rule out other common causes of hair loss. All the above do have treatment options available that can either slow down or stop progression, or support regrowth.
Apart from medical therapies for hair loss, it is important to develop skills to deal with living with a diagnosis of hair loss, especially as this has such a psychological impact on people. Hair loss is a physical condition, but it can have consequences for a person’s mental health. The fact that the condition can last a long time and become chronic means that the better equipped you are to deal with the physical signs, the less negative impact it can have on your life.
What is a hair loss consultation?
If you would like to see me to discuss your hair loss, I offer a specialised consultation that includes:
- Full medical history (including assessment of contributing conditions)
- Specialist examination of hair and scalp
- Detailed analysis of contributory hair loss factors (e.g. stress, styling, diet, lifestyle, hormones)
- Appropriate investigations (e.g. blood tests, scalp biopsy)
- Assessment of psychological health
- Personalised management plan (including oral treatments like finasteride, spironolactone, minoxidil, and specialised topical treatments) as well as supplement recommendations
Through the internet and social media there is a wealth of information about hair loss in the public domain, including various types of treatments. Hair loss is an individual problem and suitable treatments are dependent on the type of hair loss experienced. Your dermatologist is the best person to advise you.
There are several alternative treatments advertised, and some can be very expensive. It is important to obtain as much information as possible before embarking on any treatment courses that require a high financial commitment. Unfortunately, there are people who will take advantage of the vulnerability of people with hair loss and offer ‘miracle’ cures, there will be little scientific evidence for this, again always discuss with your doctor.