Hair Loss

An average adult shed about 100 strands of hair a day which will not cause noticeable thinning of the hair on the scalp because new hair is growing at the same time.

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Introduction

An average adult shed about 100 strands of hair a day which will not cause noticeable thinning of the hair on the scalp because new hair is growing at the same time.

What is hair loss and what causes it?

Hair loss occurs when the cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted, or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.

Hair loss can be broadly classified into nonscarring or scarring alopecia.

Male pattern and female pattern hair loss, are nonscarring alopecia, are the most common form of hair loss affecting men and women respectively. They are the only forms that can be self-treated.

Family history and hormone abnormalities (e.g. dihydrotestosterone) are some of the causes of male pattern and female pattern hair loss. Use of certain medications (e.g. b-blockers, ibuprofen) and underlying medical problems (e.g. hypothyroidism) may also contribute to hair loss.

What are the symptoms?

There is a gradual thinning of hair with no signs of redness, inflammation or scarring on the scalp.

What are the treatment options?

Topical Treatment

Topical solution, lotion or foam containing Minoxidil are applied to the affected area of the scalp. Minoxidil works by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles and stimulates them to increase hair growth and slow balding.

You can obtain topical treatment of Minoxidil without a prescription at pharmacies. Some reported side effects of the medicine are itching, dryness, irritation and scaling at the site of application. Consult your pharmacist or doctor if the symptoms persist or become troublesome.

Note: The rate of new hair growth varies from person to person. Hair growth usually occurs after at least 2 to 4 months with continuous use. Topical Minoxidil is only effective for as long as it is used. Hair loss will occur over a period of 3 to 4 months after Minoxidil treatment is stopped. Hair density will revert back to the level before the medication was started.

Others

The following methods may also be used to manage hair loss:

  • Wigs or hair weaves to camouflage hair thinning

  • Hair gels, sprays, colourants, permanents, etc can be used to provide an appearance of fullness for less severe hair loss

Do I need to see a doctor?

Only male pattern and female pattern hair loss can be treated with self-medication. Do not assume that all hair loss can be self-treated. Consult a doctor if you:

  • Are under 18 or over 65 years of age

  • Are pregnant/breastfeeding

  • Are on certain medications e.g. β-blockers, ibuprofen, oral retinoids

  • Have no family history of hair loss

  • Have sudden and/ or unexplained or patchy hair loss

  • Have recently discontinued your oral contraceptives

  • Have total baldness or complete loss of all body hair

  • Have hair loss related to dietary deficiencies, medical conditions and/or treatment

  • Have broken hair shafts that resemble those caused by fungal infection

  • Have scalp that is broken, red, inflamed, irritated, infected, painful, scaling or sunburned

  • Have recently given birth

  • Have changes in nails

  • Have loss of eyelashes or eyebrows

What can I do to prevent hair loss?

  • Avoid using oily hair products which may cause folliculitis.

  • Avoid tight pulling hair styles.

  • Avoid using high temperature from hairdryers and/ or curling / flat irons.

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Disclaimer

Information provided by this patient information leaflet is solely for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information for diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or disease. Always speak with your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional before taking any medicine or supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem. Under no circumstances will Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore be liable to any person for damages of any nature arising in a way from the use of such information.

 
Prepared by the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore, updated 16 August 2016.
www.pss.org.sg

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