What’s the story on hair loss?
Hair loss happens naturally to everyone. On average, the ordinary, healthy person loses between 50 and 100 hairs every day. This is the way the head is designed to work. Hairs grow, they rest, they drop out and new hair grows from the roots. In animals, hair loss is seasonal with hair getting thicker when winter comes, followed by shedding in spring. Humans lose and replace hair continuously. As people age, the hair grows thinner each time it regrows and the root system slowly dies back. By the age of fifty, more than half the world’s population has lost the thickness and shine in the hair they had when young. From fifty onwards, the hair will slowly recede. In men, this happens more than in women. Its progress is as unstoppable as the passing of the years. Whether older people find this bearable depends on their attitude to ageing. For those who see every wrinkle as something to be fought, hair loss is a further symptom that has to be hidden. Women wear wigs or hair pieces to hide the loss. Men are forced to more drastic measures such as surgery.
For younger people, hair loss comes as a natural disaster like an earthquake, shaking their self-confidence and making them look different and, possibly, older. This hair loss would be easier to bear if it was the result of a disease. Everyone knows that cancer patients who go through chemo- or radiotherapy lose all their hair. But the usual explanation is genetic. Instead of a heroic struggle against a killer disease, people lose their hair because they inherited the trait. Cruel people, intent on causing pain, suggest that balding people have genetic defects affecting them in other ways and so morale is worn down.
So what can younger people do when they notice hair loss? Well, the first and most obvious question to ask, “Is this normal loss?” When you stand in the shower and see hair building up in the drain, this is not a cause for panic. People lose their hair naturally every day. Only when the volume of loss increases and a change in physical appearance begins to show itself is there a need for action. Try a simple test. Have someone take a photograph of your head every week from the same angle. This makes it easier to identify real problems. Once a definite trend is established, it is off to see the doctor. There may be a simple explanation and a quick and easy remedy.
For example, it may be the side-effect of a drug. Changing to a different drug may reverse the hair loss. In the cases where the reason is andogenic alopecia, the so-called male pattern baldness, the answer is propecia.
This is a drug designed to correct the hormonal imbalance that causes hair loss. Taken once-daily over significant periods of time, it can prevent further loss and, in some cases, promote regrowth. The earlier in the cycle men begin using propecia, the better the results.
Clinical tests show it is less effective when the hairline has significantly receded.