Types of Baldness

All of one’s body hair is involved in a cycle of growth, shedding and regrowth. Hair is composed of keratin, the same substance from which our fingernails are made. It grows from a follicle located in the second layer of the skin called the dermis. Following active growth, the follicle disintegrates and the hair falls out. Then a new follicle emerges and the period of growth starts over. For eyebrow hair the cycle is only four months. Hair on the head is replaced every two to five years. Loss of hair is referred to as alopecia by the medical profession and baldness by the general public.

Although women also experience hair loss it does not follow the same pattern as in males. In males baldness begins at the temples and spreads over the top of the head leaving a rim of hair around the sides and the back. This type of baldness is believed to be genetic. However, baldness can also be associated with an illness. In this case, the hair usually grows back once the illness is cured. Cancer treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy causes baldness in both men and women but the hair grows back once the treatment is over. Diseases such as anemia, thyroid, lupus, lichen planus and some bacterial infections also produce some hair loss.

Another disease that causes hair loss is alopecia areata. In this condition the hair falls out in clumps leaving bald patches all over the head. Scientists do not know the causes of this disease but they believe it may be an autoimmune condition. It mainly affects hair on the head but in some cases eyelashes and eyebrows also fall out. In most people, the hair loss is temporary and regrowth appears within a year. There are several treatments available. These include antiviral drugs orally administered, injections of corticosteroid drugs into the bald areas, and application of creams that contain corticosteroid drugs. The treatments are experimental in that no one treatment works for every patient. Each treatment is effective with some people but not with others.

Baldness cannot be prevented. It is not painful nor is it harmful to one’s physical health but it does cause emotional trauma for some people. There are treatments available. However, for temporary hair loss the easiest option might be concealment with a hairpiece or full wig. There are two drugs available that will bring about a regrowth of hair in bald spots but they are only effective when taken continuously. If you stop taking the drug, the new hair will fall out. One of the drugs is minoxidil and the other is finasteride. Finasteride does have side effects and is only effective for small patches of baldness.

The most effective treatment is hair transplantation or hair replacement surgery. There are three techniques used for this but all are usually outpatient surgery using a local anesthesia and sedation.

One is a graft in which a section of hairy scalp is grafted to the bald part. The other two are tissue expansion and flap surgery. When performed by a qualified surgeon, all three techniques are generally safe. There is always a risk of infection in any type of surgery.