Hair is present in all areas of the human body. Only the soles of the feet or the palms of the hands are exempt from this rule. Hair is nothing else but filaments made up of protein chains that grow out of follicles embedded in the dermis layer of skin. The compositional structure of each hair strand is divided into three main segments; these are the medulla, cortex, and cuticle. The only living part of the hair strand resides within the follicle; the rest of the structure is made up of fibrous keratin cells.
A peculiar characteristic of hair is that it has a life or growth cycle. And while it is perfectly normal to lose up to one hundred individual hair strands every day, any hair loss that rises above this threshold is considered abnormal. There are many potential reasons for hair loss; some of the most common are genetic factors and even everyday psychological stress. However, any medical condition that affects the integrity of the follicular growth cycle and in particular the health of the scalp deserves our full attention.
AM I GOING BALD?
Uncontrolled and abnormal hair loss will eventually lead to baldness. The clinical term for baldness is alopecia, and there are many different varieties which can be classified into multiple groups according to the cause and specific symptoms. The most commonly observed type of alopecia is Androgenic Alopecia. Androgenic Alopecia accounts for virtually all cases of baldness; this is especially true in males, hence the name, which alludes to the action of androgens or male hormones on follicular health.
Other less common types of baldness include Alopecia Areata, Alopecia Universalis, and Telogen Effluvium. All of these, in particular, Telogen Effluvium, can be induced by a variety of factors such as chronic illness, surgical interventions, hormonal imbalances, emotional stress, and even therapeutic treatments.
Even less common, but no less severe and impactful, are the types of baldness that are directly caused by or at least related to the health and integrity of the scalp tissue. Let’s take a look at some of these conditions.
ITCHY SCALP AND HAIR LOSS
If you suffer from a persistent and irritating itchy scalp, there is a good chance that you are suffering from a condition that can potentially lead to baldness. Although anything, from autoimmune disease to a common allergic reaction, can generate an itch on the scalp, the real reason can possibly be more insidious.
TINEA CAPITIS OR FUNGAL INFECTION
The most common infection of the scalp is Tinea Capitis. This condition is a superficial infection of the scalp and hair caused by fungi dermatophytes of the genera Microsporum and Trichophyton that invade the hair shaft and feed on the keratin structures. Although it can occur at any age and gender, it is most often seen with higher incidences in children and males.
There are two clinical forms of Tinea Capitis:
- Inflammatory: Plaques of erythematous alopecia with squamous lesions present pustular folliculitis and purulent nodules. These lesions are accompanied by pruritus, painful areas, and local and regional lymphadenopathy, fever and hypersensitivity reactions can be observed.
- Non-inflammatory: This type is the most common of the two, and as its name suggests, it is characterized by having little or no inflammatory reaction. It manifests in desquamative, alopecic lesions with numerous black spot just at the level of the epidermis.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that is characterized by erythema and fine scaling in specific areas of the face but mostly the scalp. It is believed to be caused by an allergic reaction to infection of the fungus Malassezia Furfur also known as Pityrosporum Ovale. This particular reaction is mostly seen in individuals with poor immune response and elevated scalp sebum production.
In an individual, with the proper immune function, the fungus thrives without causing any adverse effects. In those affected by Seborrheic Dermatitis, the epidermis responds by becoming inflamed and shedding microscopic scales in an attempt to rid itself of the fungus. The most common symptoms include flaky lesions, itchiness, and hair loss. Antifungal shampoos are the most common method of treatment.
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