When a handful of hair falls out each single day, clogging the drain, it is scary. While it is normal to lose 50-100 strands of hair a day, it is a source of serious concern when one loses clamps of hair daily.
The human head has between 100,000 to 150,000 hair strands on it. There are 3 stages (phases) of hair growth, the anagen, catagen, and telogen. After completion of the cycle, each strand restarts a new growth in the same follicle. Hair grows about 1.25 centimeters or half an inch per month, or about 6 inches a year. Greater than 50 percent of men age 50 or older will suffer hair loss (male pattern baldness), and 80 percent of them by age 70.
What causes hair loss?
About 80 million people in the United States develop alopecia, the partial or complete of loss of hair from areas of the body where it normally grows; (baldness). There are many possible causes of abnormal hair loss. Here are the more common factors: Genetic, age, medical conditions (auto-immune disorder, diabetes, thyroid illnesses, and lupus, etc.) medications, major surgery, stress, vitamin/nutritional deficiency, bad habits.
Male pattern baldness and thinning hair among women, especially beyond the age of 50, are usually hereditary in nature (androgenic alopecia). After menopause and majority of women age 65 and older will experience hair loss to varying degrees. Medications that induce hair loss includes Vitamin A (when taken in excess), beta blockers (for high blood pressure), anti-depressant, anti-convulsant, hormones (male: testosterone) and female: (birth control pills), blood thinners, cholesterol lowering drugs, drugs for dieting and weight loss, medications for ulcer or acid reflux, fungal infection, gout, eyedrops for glaucoma, anti-inflammatory pain meds, like NSAIDs (for arthritis, etc.), and chemotherapeutic drugs. Like tobacco and alcohol, street drugs (marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, etc.) can aggravate shedding of hair.
What is Telogen effluvium?
Telogen effluvium is a phase where some stress factors cause hair roots to be forced prematurely into the resting state. When clamps of hair suddenly fall out, the hair loss is acute telogen effluvium.
There are actually two associated conditions leading to hair loss: (production) inefficiency in growing hair and (destruction) hair falling out of its follicle. The aim of the treatment is to stimulate hair growth and the other is to strengthen the health of the follicle and hair root by first eliminating any substance and conditions toxic to hair together with bad practices in hair care, and the second is by providing whatever nutrition that is deficient.
What are the aggravating factors?
The issue and bad habits that contribute to hair loss are: stress and traumatic events leading to hair loss called telogen effluvium, which occurs 6 weeks to 3 months after the severe stress or trauma of personal tragedy, like financial dilemma, death in the family, childbirth, or major surgery, etc. The bad habits include: too much blow-drying, combing or brushing hair when wet, too tight braids or ponytails (especially using a rubber band), forceful combing or hair brushing (leading to traction alopecia), and eating unhealthy foods. Wearing a wig, curling rollers, and using chemical to color, curl, or uncurl hair, are also culprits.
How does one minimize hair loss?
Albeit less effective for androgenic alopecia, which is due to genetic predisposition, most hair loss could be minimized, to one degree or another, especially the type that is caused by substances toxic to hair growth, our unhealthy habits and behavior.
Experts recommend the following: Allow hair to dry naturally, instead of using a hair dryer, gentle combing and brushing, not brushing hair when wet, avoid using rubber band and making ponytail or braids too tight, use of multivitamin-mineral supplement if not eating properly to make sure that the blood level of the following are normal: Vitamins A, D, K, B1,2,3, etc., biotin, folic acid, zinc, iodine, iron, pantothenic acid (B5), folic acid (B9). Caution: Vitamin A is good for vision and hair, but excess could lead to hair loss. Low level of Vitamin D or iron leads to hair loss.
What are foods good for hair health?
Plant-based foods are generally good for hair health. The following items are considered favorable: green leafy vegetables and multicolor veggies, olive oil, salmon, herring, mackerel, shrimp, oyster, berries, oatmeal, almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, chia, sunflower, avocados, beans, sweet potatoes, eggs, red meats, and yellow pepper.
How is hair transplant done?
When medications and good hair care are not enough to stop hair loss, hair transplantation is an option, albeit expensive. The procedures moves individual hair follicles from fuller area of the head (donor site, typically the back or sides of the head) to the balding or bald spot of the head (recipient site), like the receding hairline in male pattern baldness. This is supposed to be permanent but the results vary among different individuals. The final result after the transplant has matured successfully is quite impressive, making the person look much younger, which socially could be life-changing.
The only downside is that the procedure is tedious, time-consuming, not totally painless, and is not cheap.
What is the treatment for hair loss?
If hair loss is not from bad habits, like smoking or alcohol intake, hair pulling, or from faulty hair care/styling, talk to your doctor, who might refer you to a dermatologist. The most commonly used medications are Minoxidil (Rogaine) and Finasteride (Porpecia), besides the various “herbals” advertised for treatm ent of hair loss.
The past few years witnessed the introduction of new treatments to regrow or promote hair growths for people losing hair. These include hair transplant, Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) infusion and Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). In PRP, blood is withdrawn from the person and span to separate platelets from the other blood components, and the concentrated platelets are injected back to the individual, which has been found to promote healing in wounds, tendon tears, arthritis, and perhaps in problem hair follicles.
Supposed to promote hair growth in 6 months, LLLT uses light (laser) therapy in the physician’s office. While PRP and LLLT both show promise, their precise doses, applications, and results are still under clinical scrutiny. More studies are needed, with a greater number of patients to provide evidence-based results and more positive outcomes in order to be an acceptable standard in medical care.
Healthy lifestyle, which includes good diet, habits, and behavior, exercise, rest and relaxation, and meditation and prayers for inner peace, help not only our hair but our body and soul.
Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org