Hair loss or alopecia is partial or complete loss of hair resulting from illness, functional disorder, or hereditary disposition. It is one of the most common medical conditions nowadays, which can arise due to different factors or may associate with various diseased conditions. It usually develops gradually. Roughly 100 hairs are lost from the head every day. The average scalp contains about 100,000 hairs. Each individual hair survives for an average of 4-1/2 years, during which time it grows about half an inch a month. Usually in its 5th year, the hair falls out and is replaced within 6 months by a new one. Genetic baldness is caused by the body’s failure to produce new hairs and not by excessive hair loss. Both men and women tend to lose hair thickness and amount as they age. Inherited or “pattern baldness” affects many more men than women. About 25% of men begin to bald by the time they are 30 years old, and about two-thirds are either bald or have a balding pattern by age 60.
Typical male pattern baldness involves a receding hairline and thinning around the crown with eventual bald spots. Ultimately, one may have only a horseshoe ring of hair around the sides. In addition to genes, male-pattern baldness seems to require the presence of the male hormone testosterone. Men who do not produce testosterone (because of genetic abnormalities or castration) do not develop this pattern of baldness. Some women also develop a particular pattern of hair loss due to genetics, age, and male hormones that tend to increase in women after menopause. The pattern is different from that of men. Female pattern baldness involves a thinning throughout the scalp while the frontal hairline generally remains intact.
Hairloss has been a problem for as long as humans have existed. For most of the time, humans have also tried treatments for falling loss. While the understanding of the hair loss process has progressed tremendously, human ability to stop the process or reverse its effects 100% have not progressed.
Hair fall, while not life threatening, can certainly be ego threatening. Numerous studies have illustrated the psychological impact of hairloss on adults as well as children. Societal stereotypes still exists which portray bald people as less virile and weaker than those with a full head of hair.
Hair loss affects 35 million men and 21 million women in the United States alone. It is estimated that 40% of men have some amount of noticeable hair loss by age 35 and 65% of men have some amount of hair loss by age 60.
Types of Alopecia
Non scarring alopecia
- After puberty in males, later in females
- presents as gradual thinning of hair at the hairline or on vertex
- Diffuse scalp hair loss following pregnancy, change in birth control pills, stress, medications.
- Diffuse hair loss, as in telogen effluvium, but more rapid and pronounced.
- Usually caused by antineoplastic agents.
- May be associated with autoimmune disease
- Hair loss in localized rounded patches
- Tinea capitus
- Acne keloidalis
- Pseudopelade of brocq
- Discoid lupus erythematosus
- Pseudofolliculitis barbae
- Folliculitis decalvans
- Dissecting cellulitis
- Neoplasms and infections
- Lichen planopilaris
Alopecia can be divided in to cicatricial and non-cicatricial. Scarring hair loss, also known as cicatricial alopecia, is the loss of hair which is accompanied with scarring. It can be caused by a diverse group of rare disorders that destroy the hair follicle, replace it with scar tissue, and cause permanent hair loss. Non scarring hair loss, also known as noncicatricial alopecia, is the loss of hair without any scarring being present and is the usual form of hair loss commonly encountered.
When hair loss occurs in one section, it is known as alopecia areata, in which there is sudden onset of well circumscribed, totally bald, smooth patch, usually affecting the scalp. Another form is alopecia universalis in which there is complete hair loss on the body.
Pattern hair loss, affecting the males is called male-pattern hair loss (MPHL) and when it affects females it is called female-pattern hair loss (FPHL). Pattern hair loss is hair loss that primarily affects the top and front of the scalp. In males, the hair loss often presents as a receding hairline, while in females, it typically presents as a thinning of the hair.
Psychology of hair loss
Though alopecia is not a life threatening condition, studies have illustrated that hair loss can have significant effect on quality of life. Patients can experience additional stress from concern over hair fall which in turn can add to future hair loss. Many studies have been performed which reinforce the fact that hair fall can take a psychological toll on the person with the loss and carry negative stereotypes.
According to hair loss learning centre web site, a 1971 study done with a picture of the same person with different degrees of baldness drawn in was shown to 60 people. Respondents indicated that person with the balding head of hair was rated as unkind, bad, and ugly. Yet the same person with a full head was rated as handsome, virile, strong, active, and sharp.
Unfortunately adults are not the only patients affected by hair loss. Children also suffer from alopecia and the psychological impact should be minimized.
Causes of Hair Loss / Alopecia
Alopecia is caused by aging, change in hormones, certain illness, family history of baldness, burns or trauma. Other possible causes of hair loss especially if in an unusual pattern, include alopecia areata (bald patches that develop on the scalp, beard, and, possibly, eyebrows; eyelashes may also fall out as well), autoimmune conditions (such as lupus), burns, certain infectious diseases (such as syphilis), chemotherapy, emotional or physical stress, excessive shampooing, blow-drying, fever, hormonal changes (example: thyroid disease, childbirth, use of birth control pills), nervous habits (such as continual hair pulling or scalp rubbing), radiation therapy, tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp), tumor of the ovary or adrenal glands.
Baldness is not usually caused by a disease, but is related to aging, heredity, and testosterone (DHT). In addition to the common male and female patterns from a combination of these factors, other possible causes of hair loss, especially if in an unusual pattern, include:
- Genetic predisposition – family history of hair loss increases the risk.
- Autoimmune disease – some times hair fall is associated with some autoimmune diseases like SLE, vitiligo etc
- Hormonal disorders – hair loss can also occur in conditions in which there is hormonal disturbances like hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, childbirth, oral contraceptives.
- Skin diseases – skin diseases like Tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp), psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis commonly cause hair loss.
- A serious illness (like a tumor of the ovary or adrenal glands) or fever
- Nervous habits such as continual hair pulling or scalp rubbing
- Radiation therapy or chemotherapy – in certain diseases like cancer causes severe hair fall. It causes Anagen effluvium.
- Nutritional deficiency – nutritional deficiencies like deficiency of iron, vitamins, zinc causes hair fall.
- Excessive combing – may cause increase hair fall from scalp.
- Burns – burns anywhere in the skin causes loss of hair.
- Menopause – hair loss is very common in the menopausal age of women.
- Drugs – cholesterol-lowering medications Atorvastatin and simvastatin, Anticoagulant – warfarin, Blood pressure medications — captopril and lisinopril, Anti-arrhythmia drug — amiodarone, Antacid — cimetidine, Gout medication — colchicine, Steroids — testosterone and progesterone, Acne treatments — isotretinion, Antifungal — ketoconazole. All these medicines are known to cause hair loss.
- Other causes – mainly include high grade fever, major surgery, hemorrhage, starvation, chemical exposure, renal dysfunction, excessive use of chemicals and cosmetics on hairs, excessive shampooing, emotional or physical stress etc.
Male pattern hair loss is caused due to a combination of genetic factors and the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The cause in female pattern hair loss remains unclear.
Diagnosis of the cause of hair loss
It mainly includes detailed medical history, full blood count, serum iron, renal function test, thyroid function test, liver function test, microscopic examination of hair etc.
Hair Loss Treatment
Treatment of hair loss depends upon the cause and the underlying medical condition. Treatments for the various forms of alopecia in conventional medicine have limited success. Three medications have evidence to support their use in male pattern hair loss: minoxidil, finasteride, and dutasteride. Corticosteroids injections into the scalp can be used to treat alopecia areata. Hair transplant is increasingly becoming popular to restore lose hair.
Hair transplantation is a surgical technique that removes hair follicles from one part of the body, called the ‘donor site’, to a bald or balding part of the body known as the ‘recipient site’. The technique is primarily used to treat male pattern baldness. The current accepted method of hair transplant is called FUE. With Follicular Unit Extraction or FUE harvesting, individual follicle units containing 1 to 4 hairs are removed under local anesthesia. The surgeon then punctures the sites for receiving the grafts using very small micro blades, placing them in a predetermined density and pattern, and angling the wounds in a consistent fashion to promote a realistic hair pattern.
Preventing Hair Loss
Following are helpful tips for prevention and coping up with hair loss.
* Brushing and washing away hair that is falling out.
* Cleaning hair and scalp gently twice a week, and massage the scalp.
* Harsh damaging products containing bleach, peroxide, ammonia, alcohol, or lacquer should be avoided.
* Avoiding heat, curling irons, and hot rollers.
* Keeping hair short and easy to style.
* To avoid breaking hair strands, braids or ponytails to be avoided.
* Wide toothed comb to be used.
* Head to be protected from sun with a hat.
* Satin pillow or a hair net can be used while sleeping.
Homeopathic Treatment of Hair Loss
Homeopathy is one of the most popular holistic systems of medicine. The selection of remedy is based upon the theory of individualization and symptoms similarity by using holistic approach. This is the only way through which a state of complete health can be regained by removing all the sign and symptoms from which the patient is suffering. The aim of homeopathy is not only to treat hair loss but to address its underlying cause and individual susceptibility. As far as therapeutic medication is concerned, several well-proved remedies are available for homeopathic treatment of hair loss that can be selected on the basis of cause, location, modalities and extension of the hair loss.
Hair-loss is again just an indicator that there is something not well in your body. The hairs may fall due to a local infection or due to a systemic disorder or deficiency. The treatment also varies accordingly. Apart from the treatment based on the totality, recommendations in the literature include local application of Arctium lappa, Ceanothus, Malva sylvestis and Tropaeolum in mother tincture form mixed with coconut or other oil. Phosphoricum acidum, Ambra grisea are indicated if the hair loss is due to repeated sorrows. If it is due to depression, irritability and anxiety, Nitric acid and Arsenicum album may be indicated. If it is found in slow, constipated and sycotic patient Graphites and Thuja may be helpful. Lycopodium, Sepia and Natrum muriaticum can be given for hair loss after pregnancy. The other symptoms should match too.
For individualized remedy selection and treatment, the patient should consult a qualified homeopathic doctor in person. There are following hair loss remedies are given which are much helpful in homeopathic treatment of hair loss treatment:
Thuja, Phosphorous, Acid phos, Kali carb, Selenium, Acid flour, Calcarea phos, Graphites, Acid flour, Natrum mur, Nitric acid, Lachesis, Pulsatilla, Sepia, Rhus tox, Sulphur, Medorrhinum, Vinca minor, Merc sol, Arsenic alb, Arnica and many other medicines.
- Thuja – falling of hair due to white scaly dandruff. Male pattern baldness.
- Phosphorous – falling of hair in bunches. Leaving patches here and there. Hairfall after chemotherapy.
- Acid phos – falling of hair from head, also from eye-brows, eye- lashes and genitals; due to grief debilitating illness, typhoid, excessive masturbation. Patients feels very weak and has desire for cold and refreshing drinks.
- China – China also has hairloss after prolonged illness like typhoid, jaundice, malaria or blood loss. Hair feel sore to touch.
- Calcarea phos – hair loss in teenagers,who are anemic and are prone to acne and headache.
- Baryta carb – hair fall is young people who are sensitive to cold. Have recurring cold and sore throat /tonsillitis in childhood. May have poor memory and slow growth.
- Selenium – falling of hair from whole head leaving the scalp smooth and hairless (alopecia universalis). Falling of hair from eyebrows and face giving a strange appearance.
- Sphingurus mar. – falling of hair from the beard.
- Pix liquida – alopecia due to diseases of scalp, Intense scratching of scalp which bleeds on scratching.
- Alumina – extensive falling of hair of the scalp, parts become entirely denuded. Falling of hair all over the body including eye-lashes. The patient often has constipation with soft but difficult stool. Has fear of blood, knife, accidents, hospitals.
- Acid flour – falling of hair due to syphilis. The hairs are dry, they mat; they split and break. Become ragged in masses and lusterless. A good remedy for Alopecia areata where hair fall in bunches. The patient feel lot of heat and feels better in cold atmosphere. alopecia of old age or a prematurely aged due to syphilis, falling of hair in patches, hair fall due to typhoid fever.
- Natrum mur – falling of hair in pregnancy and after childbirth. Losing hair after chronic headache, grey hair due to exhausting ailments. Patient is usually introvert, has silent grief, is thirsty and has profuse perspiration. Desire for salt food.
- Lachesis – falling of hair during pregnancy and during menopause. The Lachesis patient is loquacious, loves to talk and socialize (similar to Phosphorus) but can be vindictive.
- Borax – hair rough and horny cannot be combed smooth. Hair tangle at the tips and stick together. If these bunches are cut off, they form again. Plica polonica.
- Pulsatilla – excellent remedy for hair fall, sensation of hair in eyes. Hairfall after childbirth. Patient is usually thirstless, has desire for and is also aggravated by rich and fatty food. Desire for fresh open air. Weeping dispositions, cries easily and ha a mild disposition.
- Nitric acid– profuse falling of hair, especially of vertex with eruptions. It may be due to syphilis, nervous headaches, debility or emaciation. Scalp sensitive. Desire for fat is there. Patient is easily angered by nature.
- Vinca minor – bald spots with itching of the skin, oozing moisture, matting hair together. Irresistible desire to scratch. Hair-loss, sharp and well defined, circumscribed patches which leave the scalp smooth and white or gray hair may grow on the bald spots like white wool.
- Ammon mur – falling of hair from eye-brows.
- Rhus tox – falling of eye-lashes.
- Mercurius solubilis– falling of hair due to syphilis. Alopecia with eruptions on scalp; discharge from eruptions is fetid and accompanied by burning pains in scalp. Patient has profuse perspiration, excessive thirst and salivation.
- Mezereum – hair loss in cases where the hair is destroyed due to eczematous skin lesions of scalp. Thick crusty eruptions on scalp, along with a discharge of thick offensive pus resulting in matting of hair, breeding of vermin in them and ultimately the eating away of the hair by discharges leading to hair loss.
- Graphites – herpetic dandruff, scalp scaly with much itching, burning on vertex, falling of hair.
- Psorinum – hair loss that has occurred due to eczematous skin lesions on scalp that discharge sticky and offensive fluid, which make the hair to stick together, which further leads to the hair getting tangled and ultimately destroyed. The patient requiring Psorinum feels chilly and desires to be warmly covered even in summers.
- Sulphur– very unruly hair with itching of scalp, better at sea- side. Hairfall after suppressed skin infection. Loses hair from whole scalp, complete baldness.
- Sepia – falling of hair during menopause and pregnancy. Headaches which are worse when the patient misses a meal. No desire for conjugate, aversion to sex. Sensitive to cold weather. Anxiety about family and children. Chronic backache may be present.
- Medorrhinum – falling of hair with itching of scalp. Seborrhoea. Better at sea side. Family history allergies, asthma or gonorrhoea may be present.
- Lycopodium – Thinning of hair from the head with overgrowth on other parts of the body. This occours in female pattern baldness, esp in PCOD. Premature graying of hairs. Desire for sweets.
- Arsenic album – alopecia due to use of metallic arsenic, scalp itches intolerable. Circular patches of bare spots, hair fall in debilitated persons. Patients is mentally restless and very anxious about his/her health or hairfall. Sensitive to cold in general and cold drinks. Fastidious temperament.
- Wiesbaden – the hair grows rapidly and become darker by the use of this remedy. Arnica and Cantharis are also known to promote hair growth.
This list of homeopathic remedies for hair loss is neither complete, nor exhaustive. Homeopathy has to treat the cause and the person a a whole, after due individualization of every patient.