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Hair Loss Disorders

hair-lossHair thinning and loss can be very distressing for both men and women, often significantly affecting one’s self-esteem. There can be many causes of hair loss. It is important to achieve an accurate diagnosis to determine the most appropriate and effective treatments. Dermatologists are usually the best qualified specialists to diagnose the source of the problem and to recommend the ideal method to address this common issue.

What are examples of hair loss?

Hair thinning and loss can develop as a result of many factors. Some are genetic, others are due to hormonal changes, an underlying medical disorder or an autoimmune process. Examples of hair loss include:

  • Male or female pattern alopecia (the most common cause and typically a result of genetic influences, but sometimes worsened by hormonal imbalances)
  • Telogen effluvium (diffuse shedding of the hair, often due to an underlying medical issue or some other stress on the body)
  • Alopecia areata (an autoimmune skin disease that affects hair growth often in patches of sudden onset of hair loss)
  • Scarring alopecia (a condition when hair follicles are replaced by scar tissue). This includes lichen planopilaris and frontal fibrosing alopecia
  • Folliculitis decalvans (inflammation of the hair follicle often with pustules)

How is the correct diagnosis made?

The diagnosis is made by careful clinical examination and, where appropriate, blood tests and biopsies. A discussion about medical history and lifestyle behaviours can also prove useful in determining the source of the hair loss, which can be caused by a combination of factors.

What hair loss treatments are available?

Treatment depends on the condition. It is important to identify and correct any underlying medical problem (for example lack of iron or vitamin D, underactive thyroid or other hormonal imbalance).

Non-surgical treatments can include:

  • Minoxidil (a topical medication)
  • Steroid creams and other anti-inflammatory topical treatments
  • Steroid injections
  • Dietary supplements
  • Low level laser / LED light
  • Prescription tablets

Depending on the diagnosis, multiple techniques may be recommended. These methods can limit additional hair loss and help regrow hair for many people.

Dr Anne Farrell has a particular interest in hair problems and has published books and lectured on this distressing problem.

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