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Hair Loss

15 Mar

Alopecia is the medical term for excessive or abnormal hair loss that can occur on the head or body.  Hair loss is something that many women have to deal with at some point in their lives.  Unfortunately for some women, hair loss is a life long struggle.  This article will look at hair loss that is common among women.  This is in no way a medical article but I hope it will let you get a better understanding of hair loss and what might be the underlying causes.  Remember always go to a doctor / dermatologist for a proper diagnosis.

 There are many different types of alopecia.  I will just highlight a few that affect women and the hair on our heads.

  •  Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata typically presents with sudden hair loss causing patches to appear on the scalp or other areas of the body.  This type of hair loss occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicles resulting in circular patches of baldness around the scalp. 

  • Traction alopecia

This is the most common form of hair loss among black women.  This condition is caused by localised trauma to the hair follicles from tight hairstyles that pull at hair over time.  If the condition is detected early enough, the hair will grow back.  Braiding, weaves, cornrows, tight ponytails, and extensions are the most common styling causes.  If you have difficulty moving your forehead or experience headaches and a painful scalp, these may be signs that your hair is styled too tightly. Over time, bald spots may develop along the hairline and above the ears. The hairline gradually recedes significantly.  Between 2005 and 2009 I wore weaves and braids continuously back to back.  My hairline was seriously damaged when I stopped.  It has not yet fully recovered even though I have only had braids once since then.  I am contemplating having braids during our winter in June and July.  When I get braids put in I now specifically tell the person braiding me that I am trying to grow back my hair line.  I also tell her that she does not need to braid every single hair in the front because I can always use some gel to neaten the front if I have to.

  •  Androgenic alopecia

This type of hair loss is hereditary and can be inherited from either side of the family. Hair growth decreases with time and the hair follicles grow hair that is thinner.  Androgenic alopecia in women is due to the action of androgens, male hormones that are typically present in only small amounts. Androgenic alopecia can be caused by a variety of factors tied to the actions of hormones, including, ovarian cysts, the taking of high androgen index birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause. 

  • Telogen effluvium

This type of hair loss occurs when a large number of hairs enter the resting phase (telogen) causing rapid shedding and thinning. It is also known as diffuse hair loss or Stress-Related Baldness in which more than 50% of the hair is affected, and the hair loss may continue up to 3 months.  Some of the causes of this type of hair loss include child birth, poor nutrition, a severe infection, major surgery and extreme stress.  This is not a permanent type of hair loss and the growth phase comes back to normal once these conditions have been overcome. 

  • Anagen effluvium

This is a temporary type of hair loss that occurs when the chemicals used by an individual kills the hair follicles resulting in lost patches of hair. This hair loss is commonly associated with chemotherapy. 

Hair loss is always a symptom of something else that is wrong in the body.  It may be hormone imbalance, disease or some other condition.  That condition may be as simple as having a gene that makes you susceptible to baldness or one of the forms of alopecia areata, or it may be as complex as a whole host of diseases.  Fortunately, hair loss may also be a symptom of a short-term event such as stress, pregnancy, and the taking of certain medications.  In these situations, hair will often grow back when the event has passed.  If you suspect you may be undergoing hair loss, see a doctor / dermatologist.

 

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