Bad Hair; Bad Health?

Your hair can send signals of illness or improper care

What is your hair saying about your health? Some conditions and medications affect your body as well as your hair. In other cases, you may just need to take better care of your hair or scalp. Read these tips to learn what your hair may be trying to tell you.

You’re shedding. Experts say everyone sheds up to 100 or so hairs a day. So seeing some hair on your bathroom floor isn’t cause for alarm. Roughly 90 percent of your hair follicles are producing hair at any given time. The remaining 10 percent are in a state of rest, and the hair falls out after about two to three months. New hair replaces what has shed, and the growth cycle starts all over again.
Dandruff is neither a health risk nor contagious. So how do you get it? Doctors don’t know, but one theory is that it may be due to an overgrowth of a fungus. Other possible reasons for white flakes include stress, oily skin, obesity, dry weather and having eczema or psoriasis. Although it’s embarrassing—and the itching can be irritating—dandruff won’t harm you.
If your hair is coming out by the handful, a condition known astelogen effluvium, you’ve most likely had a shock to your system. Anything from crash diets or giving birth to having surgery or taking certain medications can force your hair into it’s resting (or telogen) state. About two months after the shock, you may see hair falling out and thinning. In most cases, new hair starts growing right away.
You’re going gray before your time. Gray hair isn’t always related to aging. If you’re still in your 20s or 30s and see more than a few gray hairs, chances are graying is genetic. Even if you are in your 40s or beyond, gray doesn’t mean poor health. Note, however, that anemia, thyroid issues, vitamin B-12 deficiency and vitiligo can cause premature graying.
In alopecia areata, your immune system attacks your hair follicles, causing hair to fall out in patches—usually suddenly. Most people will have one or two bald patches, but in some cases you’ll lose all body hair. Alopecia areata won’t harm you. Hair will likely grow back on its own—treatment may speed the process—but unfortunately, some people may experience the condition again.
Traction alopecia, on the other hand, is caused when hair is pulled too tight—by braids, cornrows, hair extensions or ponytails–damaging hair follicles and causing hair to break off or fall out.Change your hairstyle and your hair usually grows back. But if you’ve worn a style that has pulled your hair tightly for a long time, the loss could be permanent.
Male hair loss is often hereditary, and (surprise!) influenced by your mother’s family than your father’s. Take a look at your maternal grandfather’s hair to get a better clue about the future of yours. Male pattern baldness typically starts with receding hair at the temples, and then moves to the crown, leaving a horseshoe-shaped ring of hair around the sides of the head. Rogaine and Propecia can slow the process.
When women start to bald, they typically experience thinning hair all over the head. Unlike men, however, women rarely go bald, and they tend to lose hair more slowly than men. Rograine may help hair growth and prevent thinning.
Some medications, including antibiotics, birth control, anticlotting drugs, antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and drugs for menopause, list hair loss as a possible side effect. Hair usually grows back after the medication is stopped, but in some cases it may not.
Too much sun can dry your hair, leaving you with brittle strands that break and split. Choose hair care products with sunscreen for some protection. And wear a hat when you’re in the sun.
Photo: Depositphotos

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