What is Baldness?
There are on an average 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on the human scalp. Hairs grow from follicles that are sac
like structures under the skin. At any time 90% of the hair are in the growth phase, which lasts an average of
4 to 5 years, after which it enters the resting phase, which lasts for 2 to 4 months. At the end of the resting
phase, the hair falls out naturally and is replaced by a new hair. Some hair loss, 50 to 150 per day, is normal.
Baldness or alopecia results when hair loss occurs at an abnormally high rate, replacement occurs at an
abnormally slow rate or when normal hairs are replaced by thinner, shorter ones.
What are the causes of Baldness?
Heredity and aging. Hormonal changes. A serious illness or fever. Medication such as cancer chemotherapy
or too much Vitamin A. Emotional or physical stress. A self-induced reduction of hair by pulling it out
(traction alopecia). Poor nutrition. Disease. Childbirth. Scalp Infection. Hair Treatments and use of
What are the types?
Androgenic alopecia also known as male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss. It occurs
more frequently in men than in women. It is a permanent type of hair loss and occurs in a characteristic
pattern on the scalp. The hair loss begins at the temples and at the top of the head towards the back, causing a
receding hairline and a bald spot. Balding may begin at any age after puberty and can range from partial loss
to complete baldness. Hormonal imbalance, mainly testosterone, and genetic factors are responsible for this
type of hair loss. Alopecia areata leads to patchy hair loss on the scalp. The exact cause is not known, but it
is thought to be the result of the body’s immune system attacking the hair follicles. Traction alopecia is
caused due to long-term pulling on the hair. This is caused by certain hairstyles, such as tight braids. The hair
loss is usually reversible once the cause of the pulling is eliminated.
How to diagnose Baldness
The doctor first asks if there is a family history of baldness. He may also examine a few hairs under a
microscope or check the scalp for signs of skin damage. Other questions related to the person’s diet, hair-care
procedures, medications taken and recent illness, if any, may be asked. In some cases the doctor may order
blood tests or a skin biopsy to help make a diagnosis.
What is the treatment of Baldness?
Hair transplantationThis involves the transplantation of hair follicles from areas of the scalp where hair is
still growing to areas where it is not. This carries a low risk for skin infections and may cause minor scarring
in the donor areas. Local application of drugsA drug called minoxidil, when applied to thinning areas of the
scalp daily, is believed to be effective in preventing further hair loss and in growing new hair. The drug helps
in dilating the blood vessels, thereby affecting the blood supply and the supply of hormones to those areas of
the scalp that are losing hair. Another drug called finasteride taken in a pill form daily, helps in preventing
further hair loss in most cases and growing new hair in some cases. The use of such drugs may help to
reduce hair fall but it is generally seen that when the application is stopped, regrown hair fall out. Side
effects such as irritation of the scalp are also quite common. Corticosteroids: Injections of cortisone into the
scalp can treat alopecia areata. Treatment is usually repeated monthly. Doctors sometimes prescribe
corticosteroid pills for extensive hair loss due to alopecia areata. Cosmetic treatments Synthetic hair: A
hairpiece can be custom made to cover a balding area. It is important not to neglect the scalp under the
hairpiece, which should continue to be washed regularly.