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Baldness - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

 

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Baldness, also known as alopecia, is hair loss, or absence of hair. The most common form of baldness is a progressive hair thinning condition called androgenic alopecia or 'male pattern baldness' that occurs in adult male humans and other baldo species. Baldness typically refers to excessive hair loss from your scalp and can be the result of heredity, certain medications or an underlying medical condition. Hair loss can start in different areas but is usually at the temples and/or on the crown of the head. Initial thinning of hair progresses over a number of years and may lead to total baldness but more typically loss of hair over the top surface of the head. Women with common baldness rarely develop bald patches. Instead, they experience a diffuse thinning of their hair. Although its exact causes are unknown, heredity, hormones and age are contributing factors. Unlike hair loss resulting from disease or other non-hereditary factors, hair loss due to common baldness is permanent.

Hair loss may lead to baldness when the rate of shedding exceeds the rate of regrowth, when new hair is thinner than the hair shed or when hair comes out in patches. A number of other primate species also experience hair loss following puberty, and some primate species clearly use an enlarged forehead, created both anatomically and through strategies such as frontal balding, to convey increased status and maturity. There is no cure for common baldness, but surgical hair replacement can give you back a head of your own hair. Hospitalization usually is unnecessary. Within a few days after the operation, tiny scabs form around each hair graft. When the scabs disappear, the donor hairs usually fall out. New hairs generally start to grow within a few months. The hair loss of female pattern baldness is permanent. In most cases, it is mild to moderate. No treatment is required if the person is comfortable with her appearance.

Causes of Baldness

The specific cause of alopecia areata is unknown. A history of androgenetic alopecia on either side of your family increases your risk of balding. Heredity also affects the age at which you begin to lose hair and the developmental speed, pattern and extent of your baldness. Factors such as diet, medications, natural hormones, pregnancy, improper hair care and certain diseases can cause temporary hair loss. Once the underlying cause is pinpointed and eliminated, the hair may grow back. Each hair sits in a cavity in the skin called a follicle. Baldness in men occurs when the follicle shrinks over time, resulting in shorter and finer hair.

Common causes and risk factors of Baldness:

  • Change in hormones.
  • Family history of baldness.
  • Scalp infection.
  • Improper hair care and certain diseases.
  • Burns and trauma.

Signs and Symptoms of Baldness

Having androgenetic alopecia may mean you experience hair loss as early as during your teen years. For men, this type of baldness is typically characterized by hair loss that begins at the temples and crown. The hair at the crown also begins to thin. Eventually the top of the hairline meets the thinned crown, leaving a horseshoe pattern of hair around the sides of the head. Hair loss in patches, diffuse shedding of hair, breaking of hair shafts, or hair loss associated with redness, scaling, pain, or rapid progression could be caused by other conditions.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • Hair loss associated with redness.
  • Breaking of hair shafts.
  • Thinning of hair over the entire head.
  • Rapid progression.
  • Diffuse shedding of hair.

Treatment for Baldness

There is no cure for common baldness, but surgical hair replacement can give you back a head of your own hair. Hair transplants consist of removing tiny plugs of hair from areas where the hair is continuing to grow and placing them in areas that are balding. This can cause minor scarring in the donor areas and carries a modest risk for skin infection. Suturing hair pieces to the scalp is not recommended. Finasteride is the only oral medication that is approved by FDA for male pattern baldness. It inhibits the production of the hormone that contributes to male pattern baldness. About 50% of men who take this drug have increased hair growth in one year.

Treatment may include:

  • The effectiveness of medications used to treat alopecia depends on the cause of hair loss, extent of the loss and individual response.
  • Minoxidil lotion is applied twice daily to the scalp. Minoxidil was originally invented as a treatment for high blood pressure; the hair growth is a side effect that, in this case, has proved useful.
  • Finasteride is the only oral medication that is approved by FDA for male pattern baldness. It inhibits the production of the hormone that contributes to male pattern baldness.
  • Corticosteroid injections (when treating alopecia areata).