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Diagnosing and treating cicatrical alopecia

GERMAINE WILLIAMS-BECKLES Tuesday, January 10 2017

YOUR hair is a social statement.

The way you groom your hair represents you as a person. It helps you create an identity of how you want society to perceive you. It’s so connected to your individuality that any sign hair of loss can cause a negative or emotional impact.

This week, I will continue the discussion on Cicatrical Alopecia, how it can occur in both men and women, its classic manifestations, diagnosis and treatment.

Cicatrical alopecia, also known as scarring alopecia, is a rare hair disorder that causes permanent baldness, if it is not detected and treated in its early stages. Cicatrical alopecia occurs in healthy men and women in all ages, however, there’s no study to prove that this disease is hereditary.

This condition doesn’t develop instantly. It may start from a slowly progressive hair loss without symptoms of any kind, or it can be seen when there is severe rapid hair loss within months, associated with itching and pain.The patches of the most common type of cicatrical alopecia may be red and inflamed at the base of the hair shaft.

What really happens in cicatrical alopecia? Normally, our scalp carries millions of follicles from which your natural hair grows, but with cicatrical alopecia, you may experience severe itching and pain in certain areas of your scalp. In these areas, because of the underlying issue of inflammation in this case, hair growth may be inhibited.

Inflammation is the body’s natural autoimmune response, which acts as a defence mechanism. Imagine that you got a skin injury, like a graze or cut, the areas will appear warm and inflamed, and eventually develop a scab. This is a normal body reaction to any wound to seal off the area that was injured, so nothing from the external environment can enter the body to cause any more damage, the scab (fibrous tissue) will eventually fall off as new skin regenerates. This is true for areas of the scalp that is affected by cicatricial alopecia. If inflammation constantly occurs in the affected area, after a while the follicles will become filled with fibrous tissue, closing off the follicles and disrupting the the hair cycle and new hair will no longer be produced.

So, how do you determine which type of cicatrical alopecia do you have? A trichologist or dermatologist with a keen eye may be able to identify certain types of cicatricial alopecia, but sometimes a punch biopsy becomes necessary to confirm the type of cicatricial alopecia that may be affecting you. This biopsy will also assist in determining the teatment that should be tailored for you. Another classic test is called the hair pull test. This is where a small fraction of your hair is tugged in order to identify loose hair that can be easily pulled out.

I have mentioned in previous articles, that treatment is based on the specific type of alopecia, but in a generic sense of cicatricial alopecia, treatments include natural anti-inflammatories and antibacterials or medication.

As for the usage of hair products, you have to make sure that these are recommended by your trichologist or dermatologist. Your hair and scalp are already sensitive and applying the wrong kinds of products can exacerbate the issue, worsen your condition.

So again, if you are experiencing significant hair thinning or hair loss, do not wait until you loose 50 percent of your hair before you seeking advice from a trichologist or dermatologist. Always be mindful of the manifestations of this dreaded type of hair loss. Seek Advice! Germaine Williams-Beckles is a Doctor of Trichology (DT) & Nutrition Consultant (NC) http://www.germainewilliamsbeckles.

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