Most people are familiar with hair loss. Many understand that it can actually affect both men and women of virtually any age. However, very few realize that hair loss is not a single, simple diagnosis, but that it is actually a common symptom that can be caused by a variety of different conditions. This is one of the reasons why finding the correct diagnosis and treatment for hair loss can be difficult, and why Dr. Edmond Griffin and Dr. Ashley Curtis at The Griffin Center continue to study every possible underlying cause and treatment option. Although all of the various causes of hair loss are too numerous to list here, the most common can be broken down into four general categories.
By far the most common cause of hair loss in both men and women, genetic pattern baldness, which is known as androgenetic alopecia, occurs when the hair follicles have inherited an increased sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (or DHT). This hormone is a natural by-product of the breakdown of testosterone in the body and is present, in varying degrees, in both men and women. When sensitive hair follicles are exposed to DHT they begin to shrink and their growth cycle shortens. Over time, they produce gradually thinner and thinner hair strands until, eventually, they stop producing hair altogether.
The individual hair follicles on the scalp do not continuously produce hair, but instead go through distinct cycles of growth and shedding. However a variety of external factors can potentially disrupt these cycles, causing a condition called telogen effluvium where large amounts of hair are shed at once. Anything that causes a physiological shock to the body can potentially cause telogen effluvium, including physical trauma, major surgery, or even crash dieting that starves the body of necessary proteins. In some cases, emotional trauma and stress can prompt changes in eating or sleep patterns that can also result in similar symptoms.
Auto Immune Conditions
There are several different auto-immune symptoms that can potentially result in hair loss, but the most common is alopecia areata, a condition similar to rheumatoid arthritis where the body’s immune system attacks the rapidly growing cells at the base of the hair follicles. The inflammation that results interrupts the natural cycle of hair growth and causes hair to shed in small, round, smooth patches on the scalp. In some rare and extreme cases, alopecia areata may progress to the point that all of the scalp hair is lost, a condition called alopecia totalis, or even to alopecia universalis, the complete loss of all body hair.
Clinically known as cicatricial alopecias, this collection of hair loss disorders is fairly rare, affecting an estimated 3% of hair loss patients. In recent years, we have seen an increase in cases of two forms of scarring alopecia: central centrifugal cicatrical alopecia (CCCA) and frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA). Both of these attack the hair follicles and replace them with scar tissue. Failure to properly treat this condition can result in significant and permanent hair loss, but if it is caught early the progression of the disease can be successfully slowed.
As you can see, diagnosing hair loss can be complicated and there is really no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” treatment. That’s why, at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research and The Griffin Center for Women’s Hair Loss, we spend so much time and effort determining the specific underlying cause of a patient’s hair loss. That is the only way we can formulate a personalized hair restoration treatment program that addresses their individual needs. If you are concerned about your own hair loss and would like to better understand your options, please contact The Griffin Center to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also follow us on social media to get the latest news in hair restoration and research.