No matter the ethnicity, hair plays an important role in every human’s life. Not only does our hair act as a cushion for our skulls, keep us warm, what our hair looks and feels like also helps us form our identity and self-image. This is why hair loss or any other hair disorder can deal a massive blow to our self-esteem.
Hair, just like other parts/components of the human body, can get ill or be disordered. These disorders can be directly influenced by genetics or external factors.
This is the medical term for hair loss; the most common type of hair disorders. Alopecia affects just the scalp, but it can also sometimes affect the entire body. It can be permanent or temporary. It can result from normal ageing, or as a result of medical conditions, heredity, or hormonal changes.
There are many types of alopecia, depending on the aetiology.
Androgenetic alopecia: Also known as male-pattern or female-pattern hair loss, this is the most common form of alopecia, one that results in permanent hair loss.
Alopecia areata: This hair loss occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicles. Because of this, hair falls out in round patches from the scalp and other parts of the body. Sometimes, the hair grows back but may fall out again.
Traction alopecia: This happens when hair is pulled chronically. When we force hair in certain directions through the use of barrettes, weaves, dreadlocks, protective headgear, braids, or ponytails, significant hair thinning often results. This kind of hair loss is particularly noticeable around the temples and behind the ears.
Diffuse alopecia: This kind of hair loss is a result of hormonal balance, nutritional deficiencies, or physical or emotional stressors.
Chemotherapy-induced alopecia: Chemotherapy-induced alopecia is scalp hair loss resulting from chemotherapy; a form of cancer treatment.
Folliculitis decalvans (FD) is a form of alopecia, but we are listing it as a separate hair disorder because of its uniqueness. It is a rare, chronic scarring alopecia that presents as an expanding patch of alopecia with bordering pustules on the scalp. Sufferers often report high levels of pain. While the exact cause of FD is unknown; it is thought that the disorder is an abnormal response to a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus.
Dissecting cellulitis (DCS) is a very rare condition. It is also known as Hoffman‘s disease or perifolliculitis capitis abscedens et suffodiens. It is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the scalp. Sufferers develop suppurative nodules that are often associated with patchy hair loss. DCS often happens concurrently with other hair follicle disorders such as pilonidal cysts, acne conglobata, or hidradenitis suppurativa. Permanent hair loss usually follows after pustules have developed over the scalp. While this disorder can affect anyone, it is most commonly seen in African American men.
This inherited hair disorder is characterised by dry, sparse, and/or brittle hair that tends to break before it has grown over a few inches. It is a rare hair disease that makes the hair appear beaded. Also, the hair is usually lacklustre in sheen, and there are often patchy areas of hair loss.
There is really no specific treatment for monilethrix. Some individuals outgrow the hair disorder when they reach puberty, and some pregnant women report an improvement in the condition during pregnancy.
Premature greying of the hair is also known as Canities. Hair is said to have prematurely greyed if it occurs before the age of 30 years in Africans, 25 years in Asians, and 20 years in Caucasians. While the cause of premature greying is not very well understood, its negative effects on self-esteem and self-confidence are.
Some health conditions and lifestyle factors such as stress and smoking can contribute to hair turning grey earlier.
A lot of hair disorders are hereditary. Therefore, they cannot be prevented. Some, such as traction alopecia and bubble hair deformity, can, however, be prevented by making the right lifestyle choices that help to protect the scalp and hair.
We all owe ourselves the duty to prevent these preventable hair disorders by following a healthy diet, and avoiding or minimising tight hairstyles. And if treatment would require a visit to a healthcare professional, by all means, make that visit.