Understanding Hair Loss

What causes hair loss?
Hair loss can be the result of the ageing process; it can also be hereditary or as a result of illness. Whatever the reason it causes a huge amount of emotional distress which can exacerbate an already traumatic situation.

Hair loss due to cancer treatment varies according to the type of treatment and the individual patient. If hair loss does occur, it usually commences within a fortnight of the onset of treatment and accelerates one to two months into the treatment period.

There are other different types of hair loss which are detailed:-
- Alopecia
- Trichotillomania

Alopecia – what is it?
Alopecia is an autoimmune hair loss disease that affects adults and children of all ages. It is often sudden, random and frequently recurrent. There are different types of Alopecia -:

  1. Alopecia Areata : hair loss occurring in patches, usually small and round, anywhere on the body
  2. Alopecia Totalis : total loss of hair on the scalp
  3. Alopecia Universalis : total loss of hair on the body
  4. Androgenetic Alopecia : male or female pattern baldness which is not autoimmune

Alopecia – what causes it?
The body’s immune system wrongly attacks the growing cells in the body’s hair-producing ‘follicles’ where the hair starts to grow. This prevents them producing new hair and causes existing hair to fall out. The cells which produce hair, the follicles, do still remain active so the potential for hair to start re-growing will always be there.

Alopecia – is it hereditary?
Whether or not a person is likely to get Alopecia can be affected by hereditary genes in as much as they are thought to influence the chances of getting this condition. Approximately 25% of patients have a family history of the condition but genes alone are not enough to make this occur. There is a view that there is a combination of genes which predispose a person to this condition and therefore it is possible to get this at any stage in one’s life.

Alopecia – how common is it?

Approximately 1.7% of the population will suffer from alopecia to varying degrees at certain times in their lifetime.

Alopecia – what treatments are available?
There is no cure for alopecia and there is no proven therapy to either promote re-growth of hair or sustain remission. There are treatments available though but their effectiveness tends to vary. It is best to visit your GP and /or visitwww.alopeciaonline.org.uk

Alopecia – what are the alternatives to wigs and hair pieces?
Some people wear wigs and /or head scarves. (Some wigs are designed to stay on while showering or swimming). Others are content to do nothing.

Alopecia - when will my hair grow back?
The vast majority of the millions of people all over the world (approximately 1.7% of the total population) experience some degree of hair re-growth.  That potential is always there because the growing cells that supply the hair follicle remain active. The re-growth of hair can be any texture or colour.

Alopecia – emotional support?
Often, worrying more about this condition does not help. You may wish to make contact with people who are in the same position as you who will understand what you are feeling and how you are affected. If possible, try to get on with doing the things that give you joy and make you feel good.

This condition, often referred to as “Trich” or “TTM” is an impulse control disorder. It is essentially characterised by the repeated urge to pull out any body hair. Individuals with this condition can live normal lives but they may have bald spots on their head, eyelashes and brows.

People with this condition often wear hats, wigs or hairpieces to try to hide the effects.  In the main there seems to be a strong stress related component where “pulling” intensifies within stressed environments.  65% of all those afflicted are female and evidence suggests that there is a genetic predisposition with TTM.

Medication is available and sufferers are advised to visit their GP.