Hair loss is a common problem in men and women. A dermatologist is trained to diagnose and treat various hair loss problems. While some hair loss problems are transient and will spontaneously improve, there are other hair loss problems that are persistent and will benefit from early diagnosis and treatment. We discuss a few common hair loss problems below:
Otherwise known as “male-pattern hair loss”, androgenetic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss in men. While the exact cause of androgenetic alopecia is not clear, it is well established that genetic factors play a major role. In genetically-predisposed men, the male sex hormones ( ie androgens) exert a negative effect on hair follicles, causing premature involution of normal healthy hair follicles. The hair follicles on the vertex(the top of the head) are most susceptible to the effect of androgens. Hence, hair loss is always most severe on the vertex of the head. Individuals with a strong family history of androgenetic alopecia tend to develop this condition at an earlier age. While most men will start to experience thinning of their hair after the age 40-50, some men start to develop androgenetic alopecia as early as the late-teens. Treatment is most effective if it is started early. Treatment for androgenetic alopecia can include:
1. Topical treatment (minoxidil)
2. Oral medication (finasteride)
3. Hair transplant
Female pattern hair loss
Many women are afflicted with hair loss and hair thinning problems. There can be multiple causes. Genetic factors, stress, deficiency in certain key nutrients, and hormonal imbalance can contribute to hair loss problems in women. It is important to consult a medical professional early to assess what is the exact cause of your hair loss problem. Female pattern hair loss is thought to be the female version of “ androgenetic alopecia”. This is the most common cause of hair loss in women. It causes thinning of hair on the vertex of the scalp, resulting in a widened parting line. In severe cases, the scalp can become visible. There is treatment for female pattern hair loss, including topical treatment and oral medications. Hair transplant can also be done.
Alopecia areata is a condition that can affect the young and old. It usually appears as sudden onset of a small, single round patch of hair loss. Sometimes, there may be multiple bald patches. Alopecia areata is caused by immune-mediated damage to the hair follicles. This condition is usually reversible. Steroid injections are effective in the treatment of alopecia areata. For severe and persistent alopecia areata, a type of treatment called immunotherapy is useful.
Telogen effluvium is a condition characterised by sudden onset of diffuse shedding of hairs all over the scalp. There is usually no visible bald patches in telogen effluvium. This condition usually occurs 1-2 months after a stressful event eg: surgery, high fever, delivery of a baby. Fortunately, this form of hair loss is short-lived and reversible. It tends to spontaneously resolve after a few weeks.