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Sometimes hair loss in women can indicate more serious health issues

By Cara Murez

health day reporter

FRIDAY, March 17, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Hair loss can be devastating for women, but the condition can also signal additional health concerns.

An expert from the American Academy of Dermatology offers information on types of hair loss seen in darker-skinned women, common types of medical conditions associated with hair loss, and treatment options.

“Research shows that women who experience hair loss may also have other medical conditions like diabetes, acne and breast cancer,” said Dr. Valerie Callender, professor of dermatology at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, DC.

“By recognizing the signs of hair loss and seeing your dermatologist as soon as possible, you may be able to limit progression, maintain the hair you have, and uncover any other underlying medical conditions you may have,” a- she said in a press release from the academy.

One condition – central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA) – causes hair loss in the center of the scalp. It is the most common type of hair loss in darker-skinned women, affecting almost 15% of black women.

Early detection is important because CCCA can cause scarring by destroying hair follicles. Once the hair follicle is completely healed, regrowth becomes difficult and hair loss may be permanent.

A dermatologist can diagnose this condition and work out a treatment plan, which may include antibiotics, topical steroids, or corticosteroid injections, providing pain relief and freedom from itching. It can also prevent scars from getting worse.

Breast cancer, high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure are common in black women with CCCA, Callender said. A dermatologist may be able to provide a woman with information about whether hair loss may be a symptom of another condition.

Hair loss in women is also common, affecting millions of women of all skin tones.

With this hereditary condition, the hair mostly thins on the top of the scalp. It usually starts with a widening of the middle part of the hair. Many women with female pattern hair loss also suffer from acne due to increased hormones, Callender said. Menopause and high blood pressure are also common as hair loss in women progresses.

A possible treatment for this is minoxidil, which can reduce hair loss, stimulate hair growth, and strengthen existing hair strands. You can buy products containing this at the pharmacy, but a dermatologist may be able to provide you with a higher dose available by prescription.

Hairstyles that pull the hair tight can cause traction alopecia, which is common in women with darker skin due to the hairstyle.

“One of the first things I ask my patients who have a history of braiding is whether it hurts when their hair is braided,” Callender said. “Getting their hair done shouldn’t hurt, so if they’re in pain, that’s an indicator they might be developing traction alopecia.”

A person can still maintain a sense of style, but with a looser cut or avoiding the frequent use of styles that pull the hair.

Hair product ingredients are also important, Callender said. While darker-skinned women, especially those of African descent, have hair that tends to be coarse, dry and brittle, some shampoos for dandruff and other scalp disorders can dry out the hair further, leading to breaks. Shampoos and hair products should contain ingredients that moisturize hair like vitamins A and E, jojoba oil and shea butter.

“When treatments are not effective in preventing hair loss, a permanent solution is to consider hair transplantation, which creates natural-looking results,” Callender said. “Hair transplants are more effective in patients with traction alopecia and female pattern hair loss. Although CCCA patients are not always ideal candidates for hair transplantation due to scarring, they may be successful.A board-certified dermatologist can determine if a hair transplant is the right option.

Callender is scheduled to present on hair loss at a meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in New Orleans March 17-21.

More information

THE Journal of the American Medical Association has more on common causes of hair loss.

SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, press release, March 17, 2023

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