Overview: Hair loss
There are many symptoms and causes for hair loss. Typically, when talking about hair loss, it’s very normal to focus on male patterned baldness as its the most common type of hair loss that mostly affects men.
Hair loss can also affect women, but is far less common. It is estimated that roughly half of men will be affected by male patterned baldness by the age of 50.
By the time some men reach their late 20s and 30s they will start to notice some degree of hair loss, becoming more prominent by their late 30s.
Male pattern baldness is passed down through the family genetically and is thought to be caused by hair follicles that are sensitive to certain male hormones.
In women the effects can be similar, but often results in thinning of the hair on top of the head rather than complete baldness. The exact cause of female hair pattern baldness isn’t understood, and it’s not known whether it is hereditary.
Types of hair loss and their symptoms
Hair loss can show itself in different way depending what causes the symptoms.
As previously mentioned, patterned baldness is the most common form of hair loss which affects roughly half the male population by the age of 50, and some women.
However, hair loss is not limited to male or female patterned baldness. It can also occur because of the following conditions:
Alopecia areata – Can appear as bald patches the size of a large coin on the head or on the body. The hair usually grows back into its natural form after a few months. It is believed the condition occurs because of problems with the immune system. Alopecia areata can occur at any age but is common in people aged 15 to 29 and it affects 1 in 500 people.
Some people may go on to develop more severe forms of alopecia like:
- alopecia totalis (no scalp hair)
- alopecia universalis (no hair on the scalp and body)
Scarring alopecia – usually caused by complication from other conditions that result in hair follicles being complete destroyed, meaning hair can’t ever grow back.
Conditions that can cause scarring alopecia include:
- scleroderma – affects the bodies connective tissue. Can make the skin itchy, hard and puffy
- lichen planus – rash that can affect many parts of the body
- discoid lupus – skin condition causing rough skin and hair loss
- folliculitis decalvans – usually affects men, resulting in baldness and scarring
- frontal fibrosing alopecia – seen in post-menopausal women. Hair follicles are damaged and fall out with no chance of growing back.
Anagen effluvium – hair loss can occur anywhere on the body and is typically caused by chemotherapy to treatment cancer. In most cases the side effect is temporary, and hair will grow back. During chemotherapy a special cap may be used to cool down the scalp which can reduce hair loss.
Telogen effluvium – can occur for many reasons including to stress, illness and hormonal changes. The symptoms are usually thinning hair rather than bald patches and shouldn’t affect body hair.
Can hair loss be prevented?
If your hairless is a part of your generic make up then there isn’t much you can do to prevent hair from falling out naturally. This is generally considered to be a very natural part of aging for many people. If you’re hair loss is not hereditary and is caused by a specific condition you should speak to a doctor who can try to identify the cause of the problem and provide treatment accordingly.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, treatment may be available to prevent or even regain some of what has been lost.
Hair loss treatment on the NHS
Usually, hair lost treatments are not available on the NHS. Like most non-essential treatment, unless there is a clear medical need to have the procedure, the NHS won’t cover the cost.
Why some people choose to have hair loss treatment?
Hair loss treatments can be carried out on men and woman who have gone bald, have a receding hairline or are thinning on top
Here are some benefits of hair loss treatment:
- Improve your self-esteem
- Be more confident
- Appear more youthful
- Improve the balance of your facial features
- Style your hair and change your appearance as you like.
Hair loss and emotional issues
For a lot of people experiencing some form of hair loss, or going completely bald, is a major concern. It can often have a psychological impact that results in the loss of confidence and self-esteem because, for a lot of people, the hair on their head is a real part of their identity.
If this is how you feel, speak to your GP or doctor who may be able to refer you for counselling.
Hair loss treatment
Medical treatment may be a good option for some people experiencing hair loss, however this type of treatment won’t be suitable for everyone.
Alopecia areata is usually treated with steroid injections, although it’s sometimes possible to use a steroid cream, gel or ointment.
Alternatively, surgical hair transplantation is quickly becoming one of the most common cosmetic procedure available to people with hair loss problems. The procedure is straightforward, and the result are generally very satisfactory and, with the advances in technology, it’s becoming less and less costly.
What’s involved in hair transplant surgery?
Hair transplant surgery involves extracting follicles from parts of the head that have hair to the areas that are hairless.
Initially, medicine is injected to numb the area of the head where the follicles will be extracted, usually at the back of the head. Following this the surgeon will have to choose one of two methods to carry out the procedure. Either follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS) or follicular unit extraction (FUE).
Follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS): A strip of skin is removed from the section of the head where the follicles will be taken to carry out the implant. The area of the scalp where the strip was taken is sewed back together, leaving any scarring to remain hidden by the hair.
Follicular unit extraction (FUE): Back of the head is shaved and individual follicles of hair are removed one by one by the surgeon and their team. This may leave some marks, small dots, but will be covered by the hair when it grows back.
After the extraction process is complete, the treatment area is prepared so the surgeon can implant or graft each follicle one by one.
The full procedure can take somewhere in the region of four to eight hours to complete.
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