About Children’s Hair Loss
Understanding the Causes of Hair Loss in Children
There are many conditions and treatments that can cause hair loss in children. Some are temporary and some can be permanent. Below we have outlined the most common causes in 2 categories.
Hair Loss Caused by Illness, Medical Conditions and Medication
The word Alopecia is the medical term that means hair loss from the head or body, sometimes to the extent of baldness. There are many types of Alopecia and we have outlined them here.
Alopecia Areata is a skin disease that causes round or oval patches of baldness on the scalp that may appear quite suddenly. These patches can get bigger, and in a small number of cases, can progress to total hair loss. Alopecia Areata is an auto-immune disease, meaning, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, tissues, and organs in a person’s body. With this condition, the immune system attacks the hair follicles resulting in the loss of hair.
This disease affects millions of people in North America and there is no known cure. Unfortunately, since there is little understanding of the disease there are no approved drugs or treatments specifically designed to treat the condition. There are treatments being used to help promote hair growth but none of them prevent new patches from developing or actually cure the underlying disease. Alopecia Areata is an unpredictable disease that can affect both girls and boys and often begins in childhood. Even with complete remission it is possible for it to reoccur.
Alopecia Totalis like Aploecia Areata is an auto-immune skin disease. This form causes complete hair loss over the entire scalp.
Alopecia Universalis is the rarest form of auto-immune hair loss. An individual suffering from this condition will lose their hair over the entire body, including the scalp, eyebrows etc.
Scarring Alopecia prevents hair from growing where there are scars resulting from trauma or inflammation. This can be caused by deep bacterial or fungal infections of the skin, burns or other trauma. Scarred areas will not re-grow hair, leaving permanent bald patches.
Disease such as diabetes, lupus along with thyroid or hormone imbalance can cause hair loss.
Medications. Some medications used to treat various conditions have hair loss as a side effect. Chemotherapy drugs for cancer are probably the most well-known medications that cause hair loss.
Cancer Treatments. Chemotherapy and Radiation are powerful treatments required to fight cancer for some children. These drugs and treatments used to kill cancer cells also kill the cells that make hair grow. With chemotherapy, the anticancer medications are made to kill fast-growing cancer cells. However, certain normal cells, like hair cells, are also fast-growing; therefore the hair is also attacked by the medication resulting in hair loss. For almost everyone, hair begins to grow back several months after chemotherapy ends. Not all chemotherapy medications cause hair loss. If a child must have radiation to the head, hair will probably fall out on the part of the head where the radiation is directed. In many cases, hair may not grow back in the radiated area.
Hair Loss Caused by Stress and Trauma
Telogen effluvium is caused when something happens to interrupt the normal hair growth cycle. It may happen from some type of shock to the system either emotional or physical, causing partial or complete hair loss. The hair roots are pushed prematurely into the resting state and the hairs growing from these hair roots fall out. This condition may be triggered by a death in the family, severe injury or accident, high fever, nutritional deficiencies or surgery. Hair typically grows back once the condition that caused it corrects itself, but it usually takes months.
Trichotillomania is a psychological condition that causes people to pull out the hair from the roots on their scalp and other parts of the body, resulting in noticeable bald patches and hair loss. This condition usually presents itself during adolescence and affects both boys and girls.