Wednesday March 29, 2023

Experts discuss causes of hair loss and available treatments

By News Desk
September 11, 2022

Long, short, bouncy, or sleek, for most women hair is way more than a bundle of fibers. It’s an expression of your style and personality. But if you start to lose your hair, it can really freak you out. Whether it’s short- or long-term, it might thin all over or your center part could get wider and wider. You might even get a bald spot at the crown of your head.

Your scalp is home to about 100,000 hairs. Each one has its own life cycle. A follicle produces a single hair that grows at a rate of half an inch per month. It hangs in there for two to six years, and then stops for about a month. When the next cycle starts up, that hair falls out. At any given time, most of your locks are in the growth phase.

These facts were shared by Prof Syed Hatim Ali Shah, consultant dermatologist & head of the Department at Liaquat National Hospital, at a public health awareness seminar organised by prestigious Mazton Pharmaceuticals on Friday.

He said, “Most people shed about 50-150 strands every day. Don’t worry if you find a few in your hairbrush or on your clothes. But if it starts to fall out in clumps or if you notice it getting thinner over time, check immediately with your skin specialist. There’s no single cause of hair loss, triggers range from medical conditions to stress and lifestyle factors, like what you eat. Your genes play a role, too. Sometimes doctors can’t find a specific reason.

“As a starting point, hair loss experts suggest you get tested for thyroid problems and hormone imbalances. Hair often grows back once the cause is addressed. Dermatologist uses the Savin scale. It ranges from normal hair density to a bald crown, which is rare. The scale helps document female pattern baldness, a condition your doctor might call androgenic alopecia, that affects about 35 million Pakistani women. Researchers think genes and aging play a role.”

Prof Shah further said hair loss is a symptom of more than 30 diseases, including ringworm on your scalp, thyroid disorders, and autoimmune diseases. You can also lose hair when you have the flu, a high fever, or an infection.

Take another look at the side effects of the drugs you’re taking—hair loss may be on the list. Examples of such meds include blood thinners, acne medications high in vitamin A, anabolic steroids, or medications for arthritis, depression, gout, heart problems, or high blood pressure.

“Take care of your health issues,” he said, as anemia and other nutritional deficiencies could short-circuit the growth pattern.

He recommended having your doctor do some tests to identify any possible nutritional deficiencies, a well-rounded, nutritious diet is important for head-to-toe health, including the hairs on your head. Avoid diets that cut out entire food groups, he cautioned. And if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, make sure you’re getting all the protein types and nutrients your body needs. A well-balanced diet can also include antioxidant vitamins & minerals including Iron, Zinc and Vitamin-D etc. You can also consider oral supplements to ensure you’re getting the full menu of hair-growing nutrients.

Hair loss can be frustrating for women. But consult your doctor before you start to worry; thinning or hair loss is often reversible, “Give your doctor a full hair history — when the thinning began, where and how extensive the thinning is, and any relevant symptoms, Dr Shah advised.

“When you’re pregnant, your hormones keep your hair from falling out as often as it normally does. That makes it seem thicker and more luscious. After you give birth, you lose the extra hair you’ve been hanging onto as your hormones shift again. Everything should balance out about 3 to 6 months later. You might notice your hair seems fuller during pregnancy. That’s because high hormone levels keep resting hairs from falling out. But after the baby comes, things go back to normal and those strands will fall out quickly. You could lose a lot of hair at once. It could take up to 2 years for your locks to return to normal,” said guest speaker Dr Tahira Yasmeen, consultant gynaecologist & obstetrician and assistant professor at Liaquat National Hospital, while giving a gynecological perspective to hair loss.

“If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), your hormones are always out of whack. Your body makes more male hormones, or androgen, than it should. This can cause extra hair to sprout on your face and body while the hair on your head thins out. PCOS can also lead to ovulation problems, acne, and weight gain. But sometimes thinning hair is the only obvious sign,” explained by Dr Tahira.

“Devices that emit low-energy laser light may help new hair grow and reduce skin inflammation. They’re available in some skin clinics in Karachi, studies show they do work well but it might take 2-4 months before you see results”, said Dr Fabrin Naz, consultant dermatologist & cosmetologist at DHA Karachi.

Hair—whether it’s thick or thin—needs moisture to bounce and shine. If yours needs a boost, try conditioner. You might think it’ll weigh down your locks, but dry tresses will absorb the product. Conditioner can make your hair more manageable, add shine, and protect it from breakage.

“It’s OK to use a round brush, hot rollers, blow driers, and curling—or straightening irons. Just choose a cool setting and don’t overdo it. Use a heat-protectant spray or gel. Fine, coarse, curly, colored — different hair types have different needs. If your hair is dry, for instance, wash it less frequently and use a heavier conditioner. If your hair is fine or very curly, it can be easily damaged. Avoid brushing while it’s wet and use products designed for your hair type. Staying well hydrated, getting enough sleep (up-to 8 hours and exercising regularly is essential to prevent hair loss,” she concluded.