Different Faces Of Alopecia: Alopecia Areata & Traction Alopecia

This week I am sharing with you my recently published article on hair disorders in Laha Magazine

Hair is an integral part of our physical beauty. The thought of loosing hair makes any woman or man very nervous & unhappy. In my clinic 60-70% the patients I see have some sort of hair loss or thinning complaints. Hair & diseases associated with hair is a vast subject that’s why in dermatology we have a dedicated sub-specialty, which deals mainly with hair & the problems associated with it. Today we will shed some light on two of the more commonly presented hair loss causes in our clinical practice: Alopecia Areata & Traction Alopecia.

Alopecia Areata: Commonly know as the patchy hair loss alopecia areata is a condition of the scalp and other hairy areas of the body that begins with the sudden appearance of one or more small, round or oval bald patches which gradually enlarge over a period of weeks.

Why It Happens? Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. This occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys hair follicles.

About a fifth of people with this condition have a family history of alopecia. A major life event such as an illness, pregnancy, or trauma can be the reason hair loss in some patients. Alopecia areata usually begins as one to two patches of hair loss, most often on the scalp. It may also be seen in the beard, eyebrows, and arms or legs.
Treatment: In its mild to moderate form alopecia areata heals its self. The hair grow back fully in a few months (8-24), whether or not treatment is used.

For more severe hair loss, (alopecia totalis), treatments can help change the course of the condition. Typical treatments may include:
·      Steroid injection under the skin surface
·      Topical corticosteroids
·      Topical immunotherapy
·      Topical minoxidil
·      Ultraviolet light therapy
·      Use of wigs
Irritating drugs may be applied to hairless areas to cause the hair to re-grow.

Traction Alopecia (mechanical damage)

Damage to the hair can be self inflicted either by intentional or unintentional means. Some people going through stress continuously pull at their hair until it comes out. Styling hair by bleaching, braiding and straightening can also cause damage and results in hair being lost.

Trichotillomania or Hair Pulling
Some children and less often adults play with their hair by pulling on it or twisting it. This can be part of a behavioral problem or a bad habit that is often done unconsciously. If the behavior is not stopped permanent hair loss can result from the constant stress on the hair. Its best to seek the help of a mental health professional to solve this problem.

Hair Styling Treatments
Many people change the appearance of their hair by using chemical treatments like dyes, tints, bleaches, straighteners, relaxers and permanent waves. If correctly done and done using reputable products, it is rare to have any damage. However, hair can become weak and break if any of these chemicals are used too often. Hair can also break if the solution is left on too long, if two procedures are done on the same day, or if bleach is applied to previously bleached hair. Some chemical relaxers do contain powerful chemicals and there have been instances of people get chemical burns from these products resulting in permanent hair loss. Only go to qualified hair stylists and if doing it yourself make sure you only use reputable products and follow the product directions.

Hair Braids/Weaves
Many black women and some black men braid their hair or wear hair weaves. Under normal conditions these cause no problems. However if the weave is attached too tight or the braids are wrapped too tight, they put a constant strain on the hair follicle. If this is done for an extended period of time permanent hair loss can result. This is known as Traction Alopecia and is fairly common among people who braid or weave their hair. Make sure the person applying the braids or weave is qualified to do so and don't wear braids or weaves continuously for extended periods of time.


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