The doctor is in: Root of hair loss

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By Dr. DM Mahajan

Hair loss is a common problem for Covid survivors. Is it really related to Covid or something else?

Long-term side effects following infection with Covid-19 have caused many devastating symptoms, from loss of taste and smell to brain fog and fatigue. Hair loss has also been reported as a common symptom. Patients who experience hair loss due to SARS-CoV-2 infection may notice clumps of hair falling out during their daily combing or when washing their hair in the shower. The phenomenon is known as telogen effluvium. About 90% of the hair on our scalp is in a growth phase, called anagen, and about 10% of hair is in a resting phase, called telogen. On our scalp, the anagen lasts about three years, then the hair begins to turn into telogen, which lasts between two and six months. At the end of the telogen, our hair is stripped of its follicles and replaced with new anagen hair. Then the growth cycle continues.

Are oils or shampoos beneficial in any way for controlling hair loss?

Hair loss is a common concern experienced by people of all ages and genders around the world. Coconut oil can help prevent hair loss due to UV damage or grooming habits. Applying certain essential oils to the scalp can stimulate hair growth. Additionally, pumpkin seed oil, applied topically to the scalp for three months, significantly increased hair regrowth in people with female pattern baldness.

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Rosemary oil applied to the scalp can be as effective as minoxidil. Additionally, here are the important essential oils that help increase hair growth:

  • Jojoba oil
  • lavender oil
  • Peppermint Oil
  • tea tree oil

Additionally, using caffeine-based shampoo and conditioner can prevent hair loss as effectively as monoxidil because it boosts metabolism and cell proliferation. Using shampoos or scalp treatments that contain antioxidants can reduce hair loss and improve scalp health. Women who used a shampoo or leave-in scalp treatment containing the antioxidant piroctone olamine for a period of eight weeks experienced increased hair growth and a more improved scalp.

Does the diet help?

Changing diet can have an effect on hair growth and health. Diet changes may include consuming additional protein. Consuming protein and amino acids can help reduce hair loss. A diet combined with herbs and vegetables may help reduce the risk of androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness.

Very low-calorie diets can deprive the body of essential nutrients, including those necessary for healthy hair, such as protein, fatty acids and zinc. In addition, the consumption of multivitamin supplements helps. Some vitamins and minerals that may help include:

  • Selenium
  • Vitamin B
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D
  • The iron
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E

What can be done to check for hair loss?

Before making a diagnosis, your doctor will likely give you a physical exam and ask you questions about your diet, hair care routine, and medical and family history. You might also have tests, such as the following:

  • Blood test: This could help uncover medical conditions that may be causing hair loss.
  • Tensile test : Your doctor gently pulls several dozen hairs to see how many are coming out. This helps to determine the stage of the molting process.
  • Scalp biopsy: Your doctor takes samples of skin or some hair plucked from the scalp to examine the hair roots under a microscope. This can help determine if an infection is causing the hair loss.
  • Optical microscopy: Your doctor uses a special instrument to examine the hairs cut at their base. Microscopy allows the discovery of possible disorders of the hair shaft.

Does hair regenerate in older people once it has fallen out or does hair volume gradually and permanently decrease?

Androgenetic alopecia, which health experts also call male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness, results from genetic and hormonal factors. About half of all people will experience it at some point. The condition can occur at any age but is more common in:

  • Men aged 50 or over
  • women during menopause
  • People with a close relative with androgenetic alopecia

In men, hair thinning tends to occur from the hairline to the back of the head and resembles an “M” shape. In women, it tends to affect the crown of the head. Early treatment can often slow or stop hair loss.

Dr. DM Mahajan is Senior Dermatology Consultant, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi

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