What Causes Baldness?

Photo by Neil Gould
Photo by Neil Gould

Types and Causes of Baldness

The relation between the general health and the hair is at once evident in the extreme cases where total shedding of it occurs, as in typhoid and scarlet fever, but since in lesser forms of illness this spectacular effect is not produced, the connection is not observed. Nevertheless, the hair shares with the rest of the body all its departures from health, and we see in loss of luster, thinning of the crop, and premature baldness the revolt of the hair against the poisons carried to it by the blood stream from the constipated bowel, the pus-infected tooth socket, the indolent and overfed or the ill-nourished and overworked body, or perhaps from alcohol or chemical poisons introduced in certain trades. On the other hand, the blood may be healthy, but the quantity insufficient. The constant pressure of hard hats interferes with the nutrition of the scalp, and the hair suffers. The loss of hair natural to old age has as its forerunner loss of color with thinning of the individual hairs.

Seborrhea is a disease of the scalp which very frequently though not inevitably is associated with baldness. It commences with dandruff, or the development of slight grayish scaling, which is accompanied by either dryness or oiliness of the hair. Sometimes the scalp and hair become very moist, and at other times the scales accumulate and form a sheath round the hair. In most cases the hair tends to become devitalized, and a more or less severe degree of baldness may ensue. It is to be noted that not infrequently an extensive loss of hair may follow a comparatively mild degree of seborrhea.

Treatment of Baldness

To prevent the spread of seborrhea, and to avoid its destructive effects on the hair, persistent attention to the scalp and the general hygiene of the body are essential. The scalp should be washed weekly (more often in the case of men), with some bland pure soap. This may remove most of the scales, but in severe cases an antiseptic ointment, or a spirit lotion containing salicylic acid will be necessary to accomplish this. Massage of the scalp, by increasing the blood supply and by loosening the underlying tissues, is beneficial to the health of the hair follicles. The hair should be brushed very thoroughly at least once a day. Combing is not advisable as the delicate new hairs are liable to be injured by this process. It is most important that brushes should be kept scrupulously clean, and the best way to do this is to wash and disinfect them with a solution of formalin not less than twice weekly. To prevent re-infection of the scalp it is also desirable that the linings of hats should be changed once a week.

One of the most satisfactory methods of treatment is the application of ultraviolet rays- administered under the direction of an expert. As far as the general health is concerned, sufferers from seborrhea should endeavor to obtain as much fresh air and sunshine as possible, and should lead an active physical life. Attention to the diet is necessary. Excess of fat, and of starchy and sugary foods, appear to have a pernicious influence on the course of this disease and should be avoided. A dietary with an abundance of green vegetables and fresh fruits is undoubtedly best.

Alopecia Areata

This is a disease of the scalp in which there is sudden loss of hair in patches or in some cases all over the body. The precise cause is unknown but many instances occur in which worry and anxiety precede the outbreak, and it is generally believed to be of nervous origin. The loss of hair may be permanent, but quite frequently recovery takes place. Applications of ultra-violet rays are now regarded as the most useful form of treatment.

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