Q How is alopecia classified?

A Alopecia (hair loss) can be scarring or non-scarring Both can be divided into two types: when the hair is lost evenly and patterned, and when certain areas of the scalp show bald spots.

Q What is telogen effluvium? How does it occur?

A Several situations such as fever, pregnancy, emotional stress and excessive dieting induce a large number of hair to go prematurely into the resting (telogen) phase. Since the phase lasts for three months, hair loss starts only after that. But in due course, new hair takes the place of the lost hair.

Q What is it that causes common baldness?

A People who are bald have hair follicles that are genetically programmed to minaturise under the influence of post-pubertal androgens. Probably, several genes inherited from both mother and father influence the severity of baldness.

Q How effective are medical treatments for common baldness?

A About one-third of balding patients, who use the topical minoxidil solution, experience significant hair regrowth. Oral finasteride may be somewhat more effective and can be used in combination with topical minoxidil.

Q What are the surgical options for the treatment of baldness?

A Men — and occasionally women — can achieve permanent cosmetic improvement by undergoing a hair transplantation procedure. Hair follicles from the occipital area (donor site) are moved to the balding area (recipient site).

Q What are the common causes of circular bald spots?

A Although many forms of alopecia can result in a circular bald patch, the most common causes are tinea capitis and alopecia areata. Tinea capitis is a superficial fungal infection with a predilection for children. Alopecia areata also affects children but adults develop the condition more often. The affected area may be totally hairless, but the scalp surface looks otherwise normal.

Q Why do cancer patients lose their hair?

A In contrast to the telogen effluvium described earlier, cancer patients suffer from diffuse hair loss because of anagen effluvium. Patients receiving radiation therapy to the scalp, or getting systemic chemotherapy, can shed all or most of their hair. This is because of the direct effect on the hair follicle whose rapidly dividing cells are very susceptible to injury. This hair loss is reversible. (Moha Dai Oswal Cancer Hospital, Ludhiana).