By Herbert Mugarura
BALDNESS in men has traditionally been associated with intellect and wisdom. However, for a woman, baldness is still unacceptable. Society regards hair as the beauty of a woman.
But both sexes suffer hair loss (Alopecia). This is when the hair falls out and a new one does not grow in its place. Nearly 40% of postmenopausal females show some evidence of alopecia and, by the age of 50 years, 50% of males have started showing signs of baldness .
Hair loss can be due to underlying diseases, scalp fungal infection (Tinea capitis - type of hair loss common in children), inherited diseases, side-effects of medications (antidepressants, cancer, high pressure drugs, oral contraceptives, antibiotics, steroids, anti-coagulant drugs) and high doses of vitamin A .
Other factors include chronic constipation, major operations and blood loss, stress, anxiety and depression, lack of sleep, unhygienic irregular diet habits, excessive spicy food, tinned packed junk food, radiation therapy, infection, high grade fever, prolonged or recurrent irregular menses, malnutrition, anaemia and thyroid problems.
Hair loss after childbirth is due to altered physiology during pregnancy. (When a woman is pregnant, her high levels of the hormone progesterone can force hair into the resting phase).
Drugs and chemicals poison, poor quality shampoo, hair conditioner, sprays, hair dyes & colours can also cause hair loss.
Genetically, hair loss can also come from either parentâ€™s side of the family.
Some of the early signs of hair loss are itching, scaling of the scalp, broken hairs, tapered hair, easily removable hairs and inflammation of the skin.
In men, gradual hair thinning is seen at the crown and frontal areas of the scalp. The hair line around the temples regresses. As it moves back to the mid scalp, an M-shaped hair pattern develops with various lengths and thickness.
Women rarely experience loss of all their hair. But those who have excess of male hormones (usually seen with beards, menstrual irregularities and acne), usually experience thinning out of hair predominantly over the top and sides of the head most commonly after menopause.
Management of hair loss
As the causes of hair loss are many, it is important that each condition is evaluated by a doctor who knows you well. Iron and zinc supplements may be taken where local diet is deficient of these minerals. However, some of these food supplements are high in Vitamin A which can magnify alopecia.
The fall of hair after delivery may be a sign of new growth of hair underway.
It is advisable to take milk, greens and fresh juices. Use a little oil (coconut or almond) at least half an hour before shampooing and wash the hair twice or thrice in week with suitable shampoo.
Treatment of hair loss with Chineseâ€™s herbs, acupuncture and massage has also become popular. One new plant-based medicine, Calosol, aims to inhibit the five alpha-reductase enzyme known to trigger hair loss in the follicle. Calosol is simply thought to be an effective natural treatment for all forms of hair loss (alopecia).
Avoid take-away fast spicy foods, junk foods, flavoured cold drinks, tobacco and alcohol. Keep the hair natural, avoid hair colours, dye, perming, straightening, ironing hair, soaps with strong detergent medicines and daily use of shampoo.
Continue treatment when hair loss is a result of drugs. Hair can resurface after stopping to take more drugs, hormonal pills and recovering from severe illness.
Avoid being in a stress, worry, anxiety type of life style. Medical counselling may help.
Medications like minoxidil, spironolactone and Finasteride can help but must be prescribed by a doctor.
For some patients, surgery may be a preferred form of treatment.
Nevertheless, products that will cause the hair to grow thicker and faster is still hard to get. Recovery varies depending on type of alopecia.
The writer is a medical doctor