Normal hair growth occurs in cycles as individual hairs go through a growth phase and a resting phase before falling out. The lost hair is replaced by a new hair growing the same follicle. starting the cycle again. It's normal to lose between 50 to 100 hairs each day. Excessive hair loss that causing thinning or bald spots can be troubling, but dermatologists can help determine if the loss is permanent or temporary and recommend treatment options to restore hair for many patients.
There are many possible causes of hair loss and thinning.
Improper Use of Chemical Treatments
Treatments such as dyes, tints, bleaches, straighteners or permanent waves can cause hair to become weak and break if the chemicals are used too often. In most cases, hair grows back out when the patient stops using the chemical treatment.
Hereditary Thinning or Balding
The most common cause of hair loss is a genetic trait for baldness inherited from either parent called androgenetic alopecia. Both men and women can be affected, but women usually get thinning hair without becoming fully bald. Hereditary hair loss can start as early as the teens.
There is no cure, but medical treatments that may help some patients include:
Minoxidil - a lotion that's applied to the scalp twice a day, which both men and women can use.
Finasteride - an oral medicine for men only, which blocks the formation of a male hormone in the hair follicle.
This less common type of hair loss can affect both children and adults of any age. Recent research has identified genes that play a part in alopecia areata.
Usually starting with smooth round patches of hair loss, alopecia areata can result in the loss of all scalp hair and sometimes all body hair. Hair can regrow with time and treatment is focused on making hair regrow faster.
Cortisone injections are the site of hair loss
Topical medications applied to bald spots
Learn more about Alopecia Areata.
Illness, stress and other events can cause excessive hair loss, most often resulting in thinning rather than bald patches. In many cases, telogen effluvium goes away in a few months without treatment.
Causes can include:
High fever, serious infection or the flu
Major surgery or long-term (chronic) illness
Untreated thyroid disease
Insufficient protein in the diet
Low iron or low blood cell counts
Birth control pills and other medicines
Tinea Capitis (Scalp Ringworm)
A highly contagious fungus causes scalp ringworm, a condition that is most common in children. With scalp ringworm, scaly patches appear on the scalp which may be accompanied by broken hair, redness, swelling and oozing. Dermatologists prescribe oral medication to cure scalp ringworm.
In children, hair pulling and twirling that can cause thinning is a habit that often goes away as the child gets older. Hair pulling in teens or adults may be a sign of an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) known as trichotillomania, which may require treatment.
Cicatricial (Scarring) Alopecia
This rare illness can cause patchy hair loss with itching and or pain. Inflammation around the hair follicle causes damage, scarring and lasting hair loss. The cause of cicatricial alopecia is unknown, and treatment is provided to stop the spread of inflammation.
Some genetic disorders can cause hair to become fragile and break.
Dermatologists and dermatologic surgeons often perform hair restoration procedures in their offices using local anesthesia. With today's more advanced techniques, patients can expect more natural-looking results and faster recovery times.