About Children’s Hair Loss
There are many conditions and treatments that can cause hair loss in children. Some are temporary and some can be permanent. Below are the most common causes in two categories: hair loss caused by illness, medical conditions or medications, and hair loss caused by stress or trauma.
Alopecia is the medical term that means hair loss from the head or body, sometimes to the extent of baldness.
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. There is no known cure and since there is little understanding of the disease, there are no approved drugs or treatments specifically designed to treat the condition.
For more information about this disease, please visit the Canadian Alopecia Areata Foundation (CANAAF) website.
Alopecia Totalis, like Alopecia 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.
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.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often 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 therapy 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. For more information about the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, please visit the Canadian Cancer Society website.
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. Trichotillomania is considered a BFRB (body-focused repetitive behaviour), which is a general term for a group of related disorders that includes hair pulling, nail biting and skin picking. This condition usually presents itself during adolescence and affects both boys and girls.