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Human Anatomy

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Hair Conditions

  • Alopecia areata: Round patches of total hair loss, usually from the scalp. The cause of alopecia is unknown; the hair usually grows back.
  • Male pattern baldness: The most common type of hair loss in men. Male pattern baldness usually includes either a receding hairline, hair loss at the crown, or both.
  • Female pattern baldness: In women, hair loss usually includes uniform thinning across the scalp, with a preserved hairline. The crown may be affected, but hair loss rarely proceeds to baldness as in men. See a picture of female pattern baldness. 
  • Dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis): Ongoing mild inflammation of the scalp, resulting in scaly skin that may be itchy and flake off. Seborrheic dermatitis may also affect the ears and face.
  • Tinea capitis (ringworm): A fungal infection of the scalp, creating round patches of hair loss. Although the patches can appear in a ring shape, no worm is involved in tinea capitis.
  • Trichotillomania: A mental disorder that includes the irresistible urge to pull out one's hair. The hair pulling results in patches of noticeable hair loss; its cause is unknown.
  • Head lice: Tiny insects that live on the scalp and feed on blood. Preschool and elementary school-aged children and adults who live with children are most susceptible to catching head lice, which are only spread through close contact. 
  • Telogen effluvium: A month or two after a personal shock (such as surgery, childbirth, severe stress), hair can abruptly fall out in large patches. Typically, new hair starts regrowing right away.
  • Postpartum alopecia- hair loss after delivering a baby- is a form of telogen effluvium and usually resolves without treatment.
  • Folliculitis: Inflammation of hair follicles, usually due to an infection. Staphylococcus aureus is a bacteria that frequently causes folliculitis. Acne is a form of folliculitis that is caused by inflammation. This inflammation can sometimes be worsened by the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes.
  • Piedra (trichomycosis nodularis): Fungal infection of the hair shaft. Hard nodules made of fungus cling to hair fibers, sometimes causing hair loss.
  • Hirsutism: A condition in which women develop male-pattern hair (such as facial hair). An excess of testosterone due to a medical condition is usually responsible.

Hair Tests

  • Hair DNA testing: Hair follicles contain DNA; hair can be tested to establish paternity or as evidence in a crime investigation.
  • Hair drug testing: Many street drugs (or their breakdown products in the body) are absorbed into the hair. A sample of hair can be tested for recent drug use.
  • Hair analysis: Testing of hair for toxic exposures, such as lead or mercury poisoning. These tests are limited by inconsistency and difficulty interpreting their results.

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