Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
I previously discussed male pattern baldness and alopecia areata in the Westmeath Examiner. This week I discuss telogen effluvium; a temporary type of hair loss which can occur for many reasons including sudden or severe stress. It is characterised by thinning of hair throughout the scalp. Therefore, patches of hair loss are not seen in this type of hair loss. It occurs more often in women. Causes include child birth, abortions, crash diets, starting or stopping contraceptives, drug therapy and severe emotional stress such as bereavement.
It is quite common for women to experience hair loss about 3 months after childbirth. During pregnancy, high levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone cause the body to keep hair that would normally fall out so the hair is fuller and thicker. After child birth, hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels, the excess hair falls out.
The contraceptive pill can cause hair loss as some pills contain a small amount of male hormones which can cause a mild form of pattern baldness in some women. In a similar way to after child birth, stopping the contraceptive pill reduces the level of oestrogen and progesterone in the blood, sometimes leading to a temporary hair loss.
About 3 or 4 months after an illness or a major surgery, some people suddenly notice the loss of a large amount of hair. This hair loss is related to the stress of the illness and is temporary. Hormonal problems may cause hair loss. For example, if the thyroid gland is overactive or underactive, hair may fall out. Hair growth will return to normal once the thyroid disorder is successfully treated.
Some medicines can cause hair loss. Normal hair growth re-occurs when the medicine is stopped. Medicines that can cause hair loss include anticoagulants such a warfarin and heparin which are used to thin blood to prevent clots, gout medication such as allopurinol, some high blood pressure medication such as beta blockers, vitamin A (if too much is taken) and antidepressants such a SSRIs (eg) Fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram. It is important to note that hair loss is rare with these drugs.
Some infections can cause hair loss. Fungal infections of the scalp such as ring worm can cause hair loss in children. The infection is easily treated with antifungal medicines. Hair loss may occur as part of an underlying disease, such as lupus, anaemia (low iron) or diabetes. Hair growth normally returns to normal once the condition is treated. Scarring alopecia is another very rare cause of alopecia. Potential causes include discoid lupus erythematosus and lichen planus.
Self-induced hair loss
Wearing pigtails, braids or using tight hair rollers can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. Hair loss usually occurs between the rows or at the part where hair is pulled tightly. Treatment involves changing hairstyle so pulling stops. The hair will grow back if the pulling does not occur for an excessive period of time. However, if the pulling is not stopped before scarring of the scalp develops, permanent hair loss may occur.
Where to get wigs locally
I sometimes get asked where wigs are available locally for the likes of people with severe alopecia or undergoing chemotherapy. Joli Hairdressers (04493 95921) offer a good range of quality wigs, headwear and scarfs. They have staff trained in this area and a private fitting area. Joli are a HSE registered wig supplier meaning that the HSE will give you an allowance towards your wig if you have a medical card. Some health insurance plans cover part of the cost.
This article is shortened to fit within Newspaper space limits. More detailed information and leaflets is available in Whelehans