Hair disorder is a broad category that includes the following conditions:
· Alopecia: the loss or thinning of hair. There are two types of alopecia: scarring, in which hair follicles are destroyed, and non-scarring, which can be reversed.
· Male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia): This is the most prominent type of hair disorder affecting, to varying degrees, half of all men over 50 years of age.
· Hirsutism: excessive male pattern hair growth affecting 8% of adult women.
· Hair shaft disorders: usually hereditary abnormalities.
Hair loss (alopecia) has multiple causes and is usually a major concern for patients. Androgenetic alopecia, the most common form of alopecia, is related to a variety of genetic and hormonal factors, and it involves a progressive hair thinning that occurs in both men and women. In most cases, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. In many cases, the disease does not extend beyond a few bare patches. In some people, hair loss is more extensive. Although uncommon, the disease can progress to cause total loss of hair on the head or complete loss of hair on the head, face, and body.
Alopecia areata is just one cause of alopecia, or hair loss. Others include:
· Traction alopecia – a condition that occurs when ponytails or tight braids put so much stress on the hair that it falls out. If this happens repeatedly it can cause scarring and root damage that will prevent hair from growing back.
· Cicatricial alopecia – a group of related disorders in which inflammation destroys the hair follicles and replaces them with scar tissue. Also referred to as scarring alopecia, this cause of permanent hair loss is often seen in skin conditions such as discoid lupus erythematosus and lichen planus.
· Androgenic alopecia – also called male-pattern or female-pattern baldness, a condition in which the growth phase of the normal hair cycle shortens, making hair more fragile. Over time hairs falls out easily leaving a characteristic pattern of thinning or baldness.
· Trichotillomania – a mental condition in which people have an uncontrollable urge to pull out their hair. This can lead to patchy bald spots on the head.
· Telogen effluvium – hair loss related to a change in the normal hair cycle. This may be caused by an emotional shock – such as the death of a loved one – or physical shock, such as high fever, illness or surgery.
Hair disorders are accompanied by the following signs and symptoms, depending on the type:
· Alopecia (non-scarring) involves hair loss all over or in circular areas, a receding hair line, broken hairs, a smooth scalp, inflammation, and possibly loss of lashes, eyebrows, or pubic hair.
· Alopecia (scarring) is limited to particular areas. Symptoms are inflammation at the edge and follicle loss toward the center of lesions, violet colored skin abnormalities, and scaling.
Eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding potentially damaging hair treatments can help prevent some types of hair loss. The primary goals of treatment are to treat the underlying cause, regrow the hair when possible, and correct damaging grooming practices.
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to diagnose your problem before starting any treatment.
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