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Are you losing your hair?

Published:Saturday | August 4, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Dr Douglas Street, Contributor

We like being unique, but generally, we don't like being different. Losing hair makes us look different, and admittedly or not, hair loss is not something that we have positive feelings about.

As a result, hair-loss treatments - effective or not - usually generate a lot of interest and money. It affects mostly males, but females are not exempt. But what causes it?


Hair loss may have a pattern (male and female pattern) or may be patchy. Male pattern baldness is caused by the influence of a male hormone, DHT (dihydrotestosterone), on the scalp. It may start at anytime after puberty and is more common in older age groups.

There are two types: the receding hairline, and vertex balding (towards the rear). As balding worsens, these two areas usually meet in the middle leaving just a horseshoe shape of hair. Male pattern baldness runs in the family, coming from both the mother's and father's sides.

Female pattern baldness, on the other hand, does not normally have a receding hairline. All areas of the scalp are affected. It may be caused by excessive DHT in the body, but this is often not the case. Other hormonal conditions such as pregnancy, thyroid disorders, menopause, and polycystic ovarian syndrome may also cause it.

There are many other situations that may lead to hair loss (alopecia). Infections of the scalp such as ringworm and folliculitis may be responsible. Seborrhoiec eczema may also cause it. Traction alopecia occurs when hair is combed and restrained into a style that is too tight, for too long.

This damages the hair root, causing hair loss. In trichotillomania, the hair is compulsively pulled and twisted, causing it to break. It usually occurs in persons who are nervous. Stress, by itself, may also cause hair loss as it seems to cause too much restriction to the blood supply to the hair root.

Alopecia areata is a usually patchy type of hair loss which is thought to be because of the immune system attacking and destroying the hair root. Rarely, it can get so bad that it causes hair loss over the entire body.

Alopecia areata usually resolves spontaneously. Lupus is another disorder of the immune system which causes hair loss. Medical treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and some medications may also cause hair loss.

Permanent hair loss may be dealt with by concealment (wigs, etc), hair growth promoting treatments, or transplant methods.

Dr Douglas Street is a general practitioner and has private practices at Trinity Medical Centre, Trinity Mall at 3 Barnett Street in Montego Bay, and Omega Medical Centre at Plaza de Negril, Negril. Send feedback to