Definition, treatment and causes of hair loss

Definition, treatment and causes of hair loss

Alopecia refers to baldness or hair loss. Men are most commonly affected, but some women also suffer from alopecia. This also applies to American actress Jada Pinkett SmithWill Smith’s wife. But what is this disease? What are the causes and is there any treatment?

Definition: What is alopecia?

Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. Men are affected much more often than women. It is estimated that hair loss affects 20% of men by age 20, 30% of men by age 30, 40% of men over 40. Androgenetic alopecia is less common in women: it affects one in five women around the age of 40 and one in four women around the age of 60.

The normal hair growth cycle consists of three distinct phases. It lasts between two and five years. The first phase, called the anagen phase, is the hair growth phase. This is the longest phase and lasts for many years.

In the catagen phase, which lasts only about three weeks, hair stops growing. The last stage is the telogen phase. It ends when the hair falls out and the hair cycle starts all over again.

In alopecia, the anagen phase is significantly shortened. The hair is less long and falls out more often. This leads to bald spots on the scalp, especially on the temples, and/or shaves.

Alopecia: Causes of hair loss

The most important factor in the development of alopecia is heredity. Because men or women who have a family member who has hair loss, they are at a higher risk of getting affected themselves. Certain genes are said to be involved in an inheritance known as androgenetic alopecia.

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High levels of stress can also play a role in the intensity or onset of hair loss. Similarly, there are other causes associated with alopecia such as:

  • excessive UV radiation
  • Side effects of certain medications (chemotherapy, anticoagulants, retinoids, contraceptives in pill form, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, lithium, thyroid medications, anticonvulsants, hypervitaminosis A…)
  • an infection (eg, scalp ringworm)
  • hormonal changes
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • Tension
  • genetic disease

In women, iron deficiency due to heavy periods or multiple pregnancies can cause hair loss. This is also the case with certain diseases that cause excessive release of male hormones.

Treatment of alopecia: how to fight hair loss?

To effectively treat alopecia, it is first important to identify the causes of hair loss. Treatment is not always necessary, especially in the case of temporary hair loss.

Medications can help slow hair loss and encourage hair growth without restoring the original head of hair. This applies to minoxidil in the form of lotions and finasteride in the form of tablets. They can be used in conjunction with hair supplements.

Another option is surgery. The scalp may be micrografted. The hair is removed and then transplanted to the bald spots. This technique is strongly discouraged for young people, as hair loss can still develop.

In women, treatment depends on the cause of hair loss. This may be aimed at correcting iron deficiency or counteracting excess male hormones.

translated from french by Gentside France

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