Understanding hair loss

Understanding hair loss

Understanding hair loss - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Norwich-based consultant Dr Deepak Rallan explains how those who are suffering from hair loss can be helped.

Hair loss is a common and traumatic condition which affects people of all ages. Dr Deepak Rallan, director of Diamond Skin Care and a consultant at its Norfolk clinics says he often sees people – from children to the elderly – who are experiencing problems of hair loss. “The psychological impact of hair loss is quite often what drives people to seeking help,” he explains.

Losing hair can show up in a number of different ways, from patchy hair loss on the scalp to complete hair loss all over the body. There are many factors which can cause hair loss and the management of this is all down to getting the right diagnosis in order to receive the correct treatment.

The range of causes includes dietary factors (low iron), hormonal causes (thyroid or ovary problems) autoimmune conditions such as lupus, prolonged ill health or hospital stay, pregnancy, rapid weight loss, certain medications including chemotherapy, skin

infections and of course genetic. Although it is very commonly blamed, mental stress is not seen to be a major cause of hair loss unless associated with a major health change. Dr Rallan says: “Mental stress is not a major cause, but by the time people seek help for hair loss they are usually stressed by it.”

Itching is the most common symptom reported. However, most people don’t experience any symptoms at all.

The technical term for hair loss is alopecia. There are several types which are broadly classed into scarring and non-scarring types – the scarring is of the actual hair follicles. In most cases the former are much harder to treat. It is important to catch the scarring alopecias early so that the condition does not worsen, as scarring hair loss is generally permanent. The non-scarring types are usually (but not always) reversible.

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Over the past 10 years there have been some excellent advances in treating thinning hair, although some forms of hair loss recover on their own. Treatments are available in the forms of creams, injections and tablets but mostly only on prescription and with specialist administration.

What can I do?

There is no harm in trying over-the-counter treatments but seek help if there is no effect within two to three months.

If you have an underlying scalp condition, get this treated first as it may be what is driving the hair loss.

If you have started any new medications, check their side-effect profile in the information leaflet.

Be careful with braiding and hairstyles that pull at the root – “traction” alopecia can set in very gradually.

Diamond Skin Care has clinics at The Global Diagnostic Clinic at Colney Hall, Norwich, and at East Point Consulting Rooms at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston; 01603 819125; info@diamondskincare.co.uk

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