Health matters: October

Uppermill Pharmacist IAN STRACHAN examines: hair loss

CHEMIST: Ian Strachan
CHEMIST: Ian Strachan

AS A 70s teenager I recall how it was fashionable for boys to shave their hair, emulating American cop “Kojac”.

Kojac was cool, popular, always got the girl and for a time reversed the stigma associated with being bald.

Hair loss however can be traumatic for many – your hair is after all a defining part of your identity, reflecting the image you have of yourself and how you wish others to see you.

At 25 my hair became thinner and it’s been one way traffic ever since – but there have been advances in this field since the 70s.

TYPES OF HAIR LOSS

Male pattern baldness: the most common type, mainly affecting men although women can also be affected. It follows a pattern of receding hairline followed by thinning at the crown and templates.Female pattern baldness usually thins on top.

Male type runs in families while there is uncertainty if this is the case for females.

Alopecia Areata: patches of baldness that can come and go, occurring at any age but mainly affecting teenagers and young adults.

It is thought to be caused by a problem with the body’s natural defence against infection and illnesses. One in five people have a family history of this condition so it is likely to be of genetic origin.

In many cases the hair simply grows back after about a year.

Other types: Hair loss can be attributable to complications of other conditions, including hormone changes, stress, infection, crash dieting and chemotherapy.

TREATMENTS

Male pattern baldness does not require treatment as it’s just part of the ageing process and does not present a risk to health.

However it can be distressing and you should see your GP if you’re finding hair loss difficult to come to terms with.

If you feel emotional support is needed then there are charities and support groups such asAlopecia UK which runs an online forum and has a network of support groups across the UK.

Treatments for male pattern baldness can be expensive with limited effectiveness, they do not work for everyone and are not available on the NHS.

Minoxidol is available as a lotion to rub onto your scalp daily. It isn’t fully understood how it works but evidence suggests it can stimulate hair regrowth in some men.

But Minoxidol can lead to dryness and itching of the scalp and I would discuss its suitability with your pharmacist.

Female pattern baldness would seem to respond to Minoxidol better than men. With men you will need to apply for several months to observe any benefit.

Finally, treatments must be maintained or the benefits will be lost once treatment is stopped.

Alopetia Areata: In most cases hair grows back naturally after about a year so “watchful waiting” is possibly the best advice.

Treatments are available from your GP but I’m not going to consider them here.

Wigs, synthetic or real hair are gaining popularity and I would advise visiting the Alopecia UK website.

Hair loss surgery is well publicised in the media but demands careful evaluation and I would strongly advocate speaking to your GP before going any further.

A final word of wisdom to you men out there from someone who’s been there: You’re probably much more aware of it than anyone else will ever be or care to be.

Next month: the football season is upon us so its sprains and strains

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