4 Medical Causes of Permanent Hair Loss
Some causes of hair loss are temporary. For example, stress, radiation treatment, chemotherapy drugs, and fungal infections (also known as ringworm) can cause temporary hair loss. Hair typically grows back after these forms of hair loss, and hair transplant surgery or other forms of hair restoration are unnecessary. Rather, these may be treated with hair loss medications, hair pieces or wigs, and a lot of patience.
However, other causes of hair loss are either permanent (at least according to our current understanding) or are due to a chronic illness, which may be untreatable or which the patient may choose not to treat. In these cases, hair loss treatment at a hair clinic may be required to restore hair. Here are four examples of hair loss causes that may be permanent:
Hair grows from hair follicles in the skin. The root of the hair is located at the base of the hair follicle. There, blood vessels supply the root and allow the root to add more cells to the hair. This causes the hair to grow.
Sometimes damage to the skin of the scalp may result in temporary hair loss. For example, mild burns and abrasions may physically strip the hair from the skin without otherwise damaging the hair follicle. Other forms of skin damage, may damage the hair follicle. In some cases, the damage may be so severe that the hair follicle stops producing hair. In these cases, scar tissue can replace the healthy skin and hair follicles and the scarred area of skin may permanently lose the ability to grow hair.
Other forms of damage directly to the hair follicle can also cause hair loss. For example, chemical burns from hair products, such as home perms or bleaches, and hair treatments, such as hair extensions and tight braids, can damage the scalp and lead to temporary or, in severe cases, permanent hair loss. Examination by a hair clinic may reveal some options to restore hair to scarred or damaged skin.
Sometimes, the body’s immune system attacks itself. Examples of autoimmune disorders include lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. In one type of autoimmune disease, called alopecia areata, the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing inflammation and hair loss. In some cases, the hair follicles recover after the immune system’s flare up subsides. In other cases, hair loss may be permanent, remaining even after the autoimmune disorder is under control. In either case, hair growth may be restored through techniques and treatments developed by hair clinics.
The vast majority of hair loss cases (up to 90% by some measures) is genetic. Specifically, a study in 2005 identified an androgen receptor gene that appeared to correlate with male pattern baldness. Because this gene lies on the X chromosome, it is inherited from the mother. Thus, one indication of possible genetic hair loss would be a maternal grandfather and maternal uncles with hair loss. This form of hair loss is currently irreversible. Thus, the only way for a hair clinic to restore hair lost due to heredity is hair transplant surgery or other hair loss treatment.
The androgen receptor gene discussed above functions to produce proteins called androgen receptors. Androgen receptors are located throughout the body and bind to a hormone called androgen. Androgen is similar to testosterone in that it prompts many of the male traits, such as body hair and sex drive, as well as the muscle growth and fat distribution characteristic of the male body. Females also produce androgen, which contributes to bone strength, muscle growth, reproductive function, and emotional regulation.
As discussed above, a genetic variation in the androgen receptor gene appears to cause male pattern baldness. Interestingly, it is an over expression of this gene and high levels of the hormone androgen dihydrotestosterone that appear to cause baldness, rather than a deficiency. This matches with the observed side effect of baldness in patients treated with testosterone hormone replacement therapy and people associated with the illicit abuse of anabolic steroids.
Medical explanations for hair loss include physical damage to the scalp and hair follicles, autoimmune disorders that attack the hair follicles, hormones that disrupt the cells that trigger hair growth. Most significantly, genetics plays a role in the vast majority of hair loss cases.