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Helping Hair Loss With Trichology

Tuesday, 25 October 2005


Being a woman with hair loss can be devastating.  Today we'll be joined by trained Trichologist Deborah Whelan to show us how the science of the structure and function of the hair can help with this problem. 
Everyone deals with hair loss differently. For some it's just a fact of life, for others it's a source of anxiety and depression.
It's hard enough for a man to lose his hair, but at least it is socially acceptable. For a woman losing her hair, the experience can be 1 thousand times more difficult. Confusion, fear, and anxiety can set in, and the feeling of helplessness is paramount.
Nearly 40% of women by age 60 experience some form of hair loss. It's no longer about male hair loss versus female hair loss. The cause may be very different, but the solutions are very straightforward.

What Does A Trichologist Do?
An initial consultation is likely to last up to an hour and will give patients the opportunity to discuss problems in confidence.  During this time the Trichologist will ask many questions on topics like

. Medical history.
. Nutrition.
. Stress.
. Lifestyle.
. Hair care regime.
. Examination of the hair and scalp.
. Sometimes hair analysis is required.

It is useful to take with you to this first consultation details of any medications that you are taking and results of any recent blood tests that you may have had.  The Trichologist will also take a holistic viewpoint, giving consideration to various aspects of lifestyle and diet, and care and management of the hair (including sensitivities and allergies suffered) before a suitable regime for the scalp and hair is recommended.
There are other reasons, apart from hair loss, scalp problems and hair texture problems, that you might wish to consult a Trichologist, one of which is for sound, professional advice on keeping your hair and scalp in good condition and thus avoiding many of these problems in the first place.
It is only after this detailed questioning and a close examination of your scalp and hair that a Trichologist will be able to make a diagnosis and prognosis.  However, it is not always possible to make an immediate diagnosis.  It is common for scalp disorders to be diagnosed at the time of consultation, but hair loss problems may require blood tests, either from your GP.  Once diagnosis has been made, advice will be given, and only if thought necessary will treatment be offered.  Decisions will also be made as to whether or not you should be referred to a medical doctor.

Some Common Hair Conditons

Alopecia is a blanket term for hair loss of any kind.  There are many types and causes of hair loss (alopecia), most of which can be effectively treated.  Hair loss may be genetically inherited, or it may be caused by a variety of other factors including protein or other dietary deficiency, hormonal imbalance, and stress.  Hair loss can also be the first sign of an otherwise undiagnosed or undetected underlying illness.

Androgentic Alopecia (Male Pattern Baldness)
The main type of hair loss for which there is no effective treatment is genetically inherited hair loss (known as Male Pattern Baldness or Androgentic Alopecia).  It is important to note, however, that this condition can and does affect females too, particularly after menopause even though it is called Male Pattern Baldness, it is gene-linked, not sex-linked.
In women, it is likely to lead to diffuse hair loss; that's a general thinning of the hair density rather than to obvious bald patches.  Although there is no cure for this condition, hair loss can be limited or slowed down in some cases and treatments are likely to be more effective on women than on men.  The important thing to understand is that the best that can be said of treatments for genetically inherited hair loss is that they can be effective to some degree on some people some of the time.  Hair loss can cause great distress, and there are many misunderstandings about its causes and treatment.  This is a problem that requires sympathetic handling, and a qualified Trichologist has to understand the patient's anxiety and help him come to terms with the loss of hair.

Scarring Alopecia
This can occur after infectious scalp disorders or, more rarely, they are auto-immune conditions. (When the body attacks the hair follicle as it would invading bacteria)

Other Alopecia
Other types of alopecia that you may have heard of include Alopecia Areata (still), Alopecia Totalis, Alopecia Universalis and Traction Alopecia (there are others, too).  These are all entirely distinct from Androgentic Alopecia (above) and have a much better chance of responding to professional diagnosis and treatment.

Other Types of Hair Loss
There are many other types of hair loss which can and do respond to treatment and advice without medical assistance.  There are also some types of hair loss which can have a natural or spontaneous recovery.  Excessive hair loss can often be a symptom of some other problem or variation in the metabolism of the body, and for this reason, co-operation between the patient's doctor and the Trichologist is often necessary.
There are no effective hair loss treatments, but with continuing research into stem cell technology, a cure for baldness is closer than before.

Iron Deficiency 
More and more cases of diffuse hair loss in women are attributable to iron deficiency.  This is more probably common among vegetarians and those with eating disorders.  It is not always appreciated that iron deficiency can occur even not a patient is not clinically anaemic and has normal haemoglobin levels.  As with thyroid problems, with which the symptoms of iron deficiency can be confused, a blood test is essential to correct diagnosis.  No diffuse alopecia (thinning of the hair) should ever be ignored.  It can be an early manifestation of several underlying conditions.
An increase in iron, can often help alleviate the symptoms of hair loss.

Scalp Problems
These can range from dandruff to more inflammatory conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema occupy much of a Trichologist's time.  As with the hair, these problems can be symptomatic of some other metabolic variation.  Stress, poor diet, or even some allergies to certain foods, can be responsible for the build up and shedding of dead skin cells.
The management of hair and scalp that are excessively greasy is another area in which the advice of a qualified trichologist is often sought.  Here, guidance on the right type of shampoo for any particular individual, and on its frequency of use, might be particularly relevant.

Psoriasis is a common scaling skin disease which affects around one to two per cent of the population.  Most psoriasis sufferers will develop psoriasis of the scalp at some time, and the condition is both distressing and cosmetically disfiguring.  However, psoriasis does not generally cause permanent loss of hair.  The precise cause of psoriasis is not known, but it is almost certainly the result of a disorder of the immune system.  Confusion can occur with other conditions, and correct diagnosis prior to treatment is essential.
Treatments can include moisturizer and cold tar, right through to steroid based creams and lotions.

Seborrheoic Eczema
An inherited, itchy, inflammatory, scaling scalp condition which can cause much discomfort and embarrassment.  The condition is treatable, with much success, but is not wholly curable.
Anti-yeast cream or anti-dandruff shampoo can help the problem.

Hair Texture Problems
Problems with hair texture can be caused by over exposure to heat or strong chemicals, or by many of the other stresses and strains to which we subject our hair.  With the advent of hair straighteners, more and more women are having problems with breakage and poor hair conditions. 
Treatment can include cutting back on straighteners and other damaging hair products, using protective serum or even getting the hair cut. 

Hair Pulling 
This is often stress-related.  People become compulsive about pulling their hair out and it can be a very difficult habit to break.
It is difficult to treat as people have to be taught how to break the habit.  It can take a few months and treatment can work, if people are set goals and can stick to them.

For Further Information
The Scalp and Hair Clinic,
21 Sea Road,
091- 582958
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