A detailed discussion on the common causes of hair loss

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Causes of hair loss
Hair loss is a common problem these days and no single factor can be attributed to it. The causes of hair loss are several and vary from person to person. The causes of hair loss can be broadly divided into two groups. One is a temporary effect and the other involves a prolonged action, usually involving genetics. In most of the cases when the hair loss is temporary it can be cured by medications and treatments. In contrast, prolonged hair loss may require long term treatment and sometimes, when drug treatment is ineffective, surgery like hair transplantation may be required.

The temporary causes of hair loss include things like child birth, use of birth control pills, etc. Hormonal imbalance can play a major role in temporary hair loss and can have a severe impact. It can trigger pattern baldness a major hair loss affecting a large percent of population.

It is generally observed that a particular hair loss cause is sometimes a more common reason in a particular type of hair disease or defect. For example- acquired hair shaft defects are generally caused by the excessive use of hair treatments and styling products whereas infectious diseases originate from an unhygienic scalp.

Some of the common causes of hair loss diseases are:
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Minor or major illness
  • Improper styling
  • Inadequate diet
Hormonal imbalance
In men
In men hormonal imbalance is one of the major causes of hair loss. The male hormone that causes severe hair loss is testosterone. The enzyme, 5 alpha reductase, which is present in the hair follicles converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The DHT is the most potent androgen that promotes androgenetic alopecia - the common pattern of male baldness or premature hair loss.

In women
An imbalance in thyroid hormones is one of the more common causes of sudden hair loss in women. When the thyroid gland is overactive or under active, the hair may fall out. The hair follicles are particularly sensitive to concentrations of thyroid gland derived hormones. Thyroid hormones have a large influence on the cellular metabolism of scalp proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and minerals. The cells of the hair matrix, due to their high degree of metabolic activity, are most profoundly influenced by the deficiency or excess of thyroid hormones.

Hair loss due to a hormonal imbalance is also largely seen in women during pregnancy. During pregnancy, there is a high level of estrogen hormones. This high level results in an excess percentage of hair follicles to remain in anagen growth phase. But after the child birth there is a rapid fall in the estrogen level and large number of hair follicles shift to a catagen phase and hair gradually sheds off.

Sometimes, hair loss in women is observed during the post-pregnancy period. This hair loss factor is almost always temporary. However, persistent hair loss for months after pregnancy may indicate the presence of a hormonal imbalance in the body. Hormonal imbalance for an extended period requires proper diagnosis and treatment.

Illness as one of the causes of hair loss
High fever, severe infection, or flu are some of the serious illnesses that may cause the hair follicles to enter a resting phase. The condition is called telogen effluvium which results in increased hair shedding. But this excess shedding is temporary and the normal rate of hair regrowth follows after some time.

Some cancer treatments also prevent the dividing of hair follicle cells and as a result the growth of the hair fiber is stopped resulting in anagen effluvium. In this condition, the hair becomes thin, breaks off and gradually hair loss occurs. This hair loss starts within one to three weeks after the beginning of the chemotherapy treatment. Patients can lose up to 90 percent of their scalp hair during this strong treatment.

Improper hair styling
Improper hair care and prolonged use of certain hair-styling techniques can result in severe hair loss diseases like traction alopecia. Traction alopecia is a condition in which the hair fibers are pulled out from the hair follicle by a hairstyle that pulls on the roots of the hair fibers. Hairstyles like braiding cornrowing can cause this type of hair loss if adequate care is not taken. Can traction alopecia can cause severe hair loss.

Cosmetic treatments such as bleaching, coloring or hair straightening like chemical relaxing are generally safe, but sometimes the procedures are not followed correctly which can result in major hair loss. Sometimes the strong chemicals that are used in hair treatments are kept on the hair for a longer period than they should be. This makes the hair fiber brittle and prone to breakage. So it is better to perform hair styling only under the guidance of an expert.

Inadequate diet
Some people take up crash diets in order to achieve rapid weight loss. But these crash diets are low in protein, vitamins and minerals and may lead to malnutrition. Also, some people are prone to abnormal eating habits leading to an unhealthy diet missing important nutrients that the hair follicles need.

When there is a lack of nutrients, the body will naturally try to economize by shifting growing hairs into resting phase. As hair is made up of keratin, a form of protein, and requires several minerals and protein plus energy to make the hair, during protein scarcity period, the hair fibers are forcibly sent into a resting phase, and hair shedding gradually occurs after a period of time. Hair in this state can easily be pulled out from the roots. But the condition can be reversed and prevented by eating a proper nutritious diet.

So if you are experiencing hair loss, baldness, or thinning hair, always remember, many of the causes of hair loss are temporary and can be prevented with the right measures and proper care. Baldness or thinning hair are common concerns for both men and women which can be prevented with the help of various remedies available in the market.

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