IT's normal to lose hair – with most people losing between 50 and 100 hairs a day often without noticing.
And while hair loss isn't usually something to worry about, occasionally it can be a sign of a medical condition known as alopecia.
It's a common disorder which affects at least 65,000 people in the UK and causes hair to fall out in small patches – which can be upsetting for sufferers.
But how do you know if your hair is about to fall out and are there any tell-tale signs?
Well, experts are now warning of a a symptom called Trichodynia – where stinging, tingling and burning on the scalp is directly linked to alopecia.
In particular, leading hair restoration surgeon Dr Bessam Farjo says this pins-and-needles-like discomfort is often an ‘under-diagnosed sign’ of conditions that cause hair loss.
Dr Farjo said: “Trichodynia has been linked to alopecia – a general term for conditions which cause hair loss.
“A wide range of factors can cause tingling or prickling on the scalp – medically known as paresthesia – for example skin conditions, head lice or nerve issues.
“But paresthesia on the scalp has also been linked specifically to hair loss – and can result from conditions such as alopecia areata and telogen effluvium.
“The sensations can be as a result of losing hair or feeling the effects of damaged or irritated hair follicles which can then fall out.”
What is alopecia areata (AA)?
Alopecia areata (AA) is understood to be an autoimmune condition.
The immune system which normally protects the body from foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria, mistakenly attacks the hair follicles. This is what leads to hair loss.
Alopecia areata typically starts as one or more small, smooth bald patches on the scalp.
The hair loss can remain as patchy hair loss or can continue until all hair on the scalp is lost (alopecia totalis or AT) or complete loss of hair from the body (alopecia universalis or AU).
Most cases of alopecia areata do not develop to the 'totalis' or 'universalis' stage.
Alopecia areata does not cause permanent hair loss. The hair follicles are not destroyed and hair does have the possibility to re-grow. Many people with alopecia areata do experience full regrowth.
However once the condition has developed to alopecia totalis or alopecia universalis, the chances of full regrowth become smaller.
It is quite common for people with alopecia areata to experience hair loss on and off throughout their life.
Treatments may be offered by a Dermatologist but unfortunately none are guaranteed to work. Many people experience spontaneous regrowth without treatment.
Treatments are more likely to be effective in milder cases of alopecia areata with small patches of hair loss. No treatments are universally effective.
Source: Alopecia UK
Dr Farjo, who has clinics in London and Manchester, said the symptom Trichodynia is under-diagnosed.
He added: "The NHS advises people to see their GP if they experience itching or burning on the scalp.
"But still, trichodynia is not often-enough associated with hair loss diseases.
"People often put this kind of discomfort down to the use of chemical or cosmetic products – which of course can be factors – and don’t bother seeking advice.
"The health of your hair is also inextricably linked with your overall health, with your diet and lifestyle – including things like stress and trauma – playing a role.
The sensations can be as a result of losing hair
"Not getting enough of key nutrients like iron, zinc, protein and B Vitamins can affect the condition of a person’s hair and can be a direct cause of conditions like telogen effluvium."
Many people with alopecia think they may have lost their hair for good, according to Dr Farjo, founder of the Farjo Hair Institute, regrowth of the hair is sometimes possible – depending on how much is lost.
He said: "Alopecia areata differs from common pattern baldness, known as androgenetic alopecia, in that it’s not just caused by hormones or genetics – though that can be a factor.
Ways to combat hair loss
1. Regularly wash your hair with mild shampoo – regular hair washing is a part of preventing hair loss by the way of keeping hair and scalp clean.
2. Take vitamins – vitamins are not only healthy for overall well being but also good for your hair.
3. Enrich your diet with protein – eating lean meats, fish, soy or other proteins promotes hair health and in turn helps curb hair loss.
4. Massage your scalp with essential oils – those who have been experiencing hair loss for quite some time must massage the scalp with essential oil for couple of minutes. It helps your hair follicles remain active.
5. Avoid brushing wet hair – when hair is wet, it is in its weakest state. So avoid brushing wet hair because the chances of hair loss increases.
6. Keep hydrated – the hair shaft comprises one quarter water so drink at least four to eight cups of water in a day to stay hydrated and for the growth of healthy hair.
7. Reduce alcohol intake – alcohol intake is known to reduce hair growth.
8. Avoid smoking – smoking cigarettes reduces the amount of blood that flows to the scalp and this causes a reduction in hair growth.
9. Exercise more – walk, swim or cycle for 30 minutes a day to help balance hormonal levels, reduce stress levels thus reducing hair loss.
10. De-stress – studies in the past have found medical evidence to link stress with hair loss. De-stress yourself; one of the ways of doing it is by practicing meditation.
“Telogen effluvium is a form of temporary hair loss which usually occurs at the top of the scalp – and is caused by factors like, shock, stress and poor diet.”
There are things you can try if your hair loss is causing you distress.
But most treatments aren't available on the NHS, so you'll have to pay for them.
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