Hair disorders is a broad category that includes the following
- Alopecia: the loss or thinning of hair (two types of alopecia are
scarring, in which hair follicles are destroyed, and nonscarring, which can be
- Male-pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia): the most prominent type
of hair disorder affecting, to varying degrees, half of all men over 50 years of
- Hirsutism: male-pattern hair growth affecting eight percent of adult
- Hair shaft disorders: usually hereditary
|Signs and Symptoms|
Hair disorders are accompanied by the following signs and symptoms, depending
on the type.
- Alopecia (nonscarring) involves hair loss all over or in circular
areas, receding hair line, broken hairs, smooth scalp, inflammation, and
possibly loss of lashes, eyebrows, or pubic hair.
- Alopecia (scarring) is limited to particular areas and involves
inflammation at the edge and follicle loss toward the center of lesions,
violet-colored skin abnormalities, and scaling.
- Hirsutism involves male-pattern hair growth in women, irregular
menstruation, lack of ovulation, acne, deepening of voice, balding, and genital
- Hair shaft disorders involve split ends, and hair that is dry,
brittle, and coarse, as well as skin and other
|What Causes It?|
Hair disorders can be caused by any of the following.
- Alopecia (nonscarring)—skin disorders,
certain drugs, certain diseases, autoimmunity, iron deficiency, severe stress,
scalp radiation, pregnancy, or pulling at your own hair
- Alopecia (scarring) —skin disorders,
diseases, or bacterial infections
- Hirsutism— excess of androgen (steroid
hormone that stimulates development of male sex organs and secondary sexual
characteristics). This overproduction of androgen could result from certain
drugs or conditions.
- Hair shaft disorders—overprocessed hair
(coloring, permanent waves, excessive heating) or certain
|Who's Most At Risk?|
People with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for
developing hair disorders.
- Alopecia—male gender, genetic predisposition,
pregnancy, physical or emotional stress, poor diet
- Hirsutism—genetic predisposition, lack of
- Hair shaft disorders—genetic predisposition,
damaging grooming practices
|What to Expect at Your Provider's Office|
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with a hair disorder, you should
see your health care provider. A physical exam can help identify the type of
hair disorder, and laboratory tests can reveal any underlying diseases. In the
case of hirsutism, imaging may help diagnose the cause.
Having a well-balanced diet and avoiding potentially damaging hair treatments
can help prevent some types of hair loss.
The primary goals of treatment are to treat the underlying cause, re-grow the
hair when possible, and correct damaging grooming
Your provider may prescribe the following medications.
- Minoxidil (Rogaine), for hair regrowth and possibly to prevent further
- Tretinion (Retin-A), to decrease thick scalp layer and increase
- Topical or injectable steroids
- Oral contraceptives
Hair shaft disorders:
- Drugs for underlying diseases
|Surgical and Other Procedures|
- Cosmetic therapies, such as surgical placement of follicle-supporting
plugs or folds
- For hirsutism, possibly removal of ovarian
|Complementary and Alternative Therapies|
A comprehensive treatment plan for hair disorders may include a range of
complementary and alternative therapies.
- Eat foods high in B vitamins and minerals, such as whole grains, dark
leafy greens, and sea vegetables; eat adequate protein.
- Avoid sugar, caffeine, and refined foods.
Potentially beneficial nutrient supplements include the
- B-complex vitamins, especially B5 (100 mg four times per
day), biotin (300 mcg per day), PABA (30 to 100 mg three times per day), and
inositol (250 to 1,000 mg per day)
- Minerals, especially calcium (1,000 mg per day), magnesium (400 mg per
day), selenium (100 to 200 mcg per day), manganese (10 mg per day), and zinc (20
to 30 mg per day)
- Vitamin C (500 to 1,000 mg three times per day), vitamin E (400 IU per
day), and vitamin A (10,000 IU per day) or beta carotene (25,000 IU per
- Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, flaxseed oil, fish oil) or omega-6
fatty acids (borage or evening primrose oil), 1 tbs. or equivalent two to three
times per day
Herbal remedies may offer relief from symptoms. Herbs are generally available
as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures (alcohol
extraction, unless otherwise noted). Dose for teas is 1 heaping tsp per cup of
water steeped for 10 minutes (roots need 20 minutes).
For alopecia and hair shaft disorders:
- Ginkgo leaf (Ginkgo biloba), rosemary (Rosemarinus
officinalis), prickly ash bark (Xanthoxylum clava-herculis),
horsetail (Equisetum arvense), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and
elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
- For bacterial infections, add coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
with goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis); for fungal infections, add
oregano (Origanum vulgare)
- For stress, substitute oatstraw (Avena sativa) for
- Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) 200 mg two to three times per
Topical applications of essential oils may be beneficial in skin infections
and for stimulating new hair growth. Use three to four drops each of chamomile
(Matricaria recutita), rosemary, and sage (Salvia officinalis) in
1 tbs. vegetable oil (for example, flax, borage, or olive). Massage gently into
affected area one to two times daily.
Some of the most common remedies include Ignatia, Pulsatilla, and
Sepia. Acute dose is three to five pellets of 12X to 30 C every one to
four hours until symptoms are relieved.
|Acupuncture and Massage|
These approaches may help address the underlying cause of a hair
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|Review Date: March 2000|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Peter Hinderberger, MD, PhD,
Ruscombe Mansion Community Health Center, Baltimore, MD; Leonard Wisneski, MD,
FACP, George Washington University, Rockville,
Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc
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