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Hair loss can affect confidence in both the young and old.

Byline: From the GP's surgery Dr Alexandra Phelan

OUR hair is an integral part of our identity, especially for women, so losing it can cause lack of confi-dence, anxiety and depression.

Everyone sheds around 100 hairs a day but in some people they are not replaced by new growth.

This is the condition GPs refer to as alopecia and there are many different types, each with its own symptoms and causes.

The most common form is male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, which is hereditary and affects up to 50 per cent of men by their 50s.

Most common in men, male pattern baldness also affects some women and is usually more noticeable after a woman has been through the menopause.

Many people with pattern baldness do not seek treatment, particularly men, as it's a condition of ageing. However, there are treatments available both with and without a prescription.

Another form of hair loss is alopecia areata, which is not hereditary but caused by a problem relating to the immune system.

This can be more common in people with thyroid conditions, diabetes and Down's syndrome, and affects about two in 1,000 people each year.

It causes patches of baldness about the size of a coin to form on the head or body. Some people develop more severe symptoms, with hair missing from their entire scalp and/or body.

Alopecia areata mostly affects teenagers and young adults.

Although distressing, hair usually grows back within a few months. Initially white and fine, it will return to normal thickness and colour over time.

Illness, dieting can With alopecia areata, there are no completely effective treatments and many people use the 'watch and wait' technique.

However your GP can prescribe corticosteroid (steroid) lotions, which depress the immune system and stop it attacking hair follicles.

Immunotherapy has also been used, especially for those with all over hair loss. Chemical creams are applied regularly at specialist centres - but there can be severe skin reaction side effects.

Scarring alopecia, also known as cicatricial, is caused by other diseases and happens when hair follicles are destroyed.

It accounts for about seven per cent of all hair loss cases.

and crash hair loss Another form of alopecia is telogen effluvium.

It is characterised by widespread thinning of the hair, rather than bald patches.

Causes include stress, illness, medical treatments, crash dieting, medication and hormonal changes.

Many people with extensive hair loss choose to wear a wig, either of acrylic or human hair; both of which have their pros and cons.

In cases of male or female pattern baldness, hair transplants and scalp surgery can be considered.

They are not available on the NHS and need to be done by a specialist, private clinic. Any scalp surgery is invasive, expensive and can take a long time.

Your GP can refer you for counselling if hair loss is causing stress and anxiety and help is also available from the charity Alopecia UK.

| DR Phelan is a working GP and member of Pharmacy2U online doctor service.

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Illness, stress and crash dieting can cause hair loss

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 18, 2016
Words:516
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