Everyone’s hair loss is different. Even “Male Pattern Baldness” which has a standard-sounding ring to it affects people differently and at different times. And, even if you’re expecting hair loss as a result of chemotherapy, you can’t expect yours to play out the same as the person next to you in the treatment room.
To add to the confusion, there are several different types of hair loss, many of which you’ve probably never heard of. That makes standing alone in front of the mirror, examining your scalp with a magnifying glass one of the most anxiety-ridden activities of all time. You can see something is happening, but what?
Diagnosing Rare Forms of Hair Loss
Despite all the differences and different types of hair loss, there are some forms that are so common that an expert can diagnose them almost as soon as you walk in the room (sadly, most of the general population can’t do this, but experts can).
And then there are others which require a lot more than the naked eye to discern. These forms of hair loss require a biopsy to diagnose. Cicatricial Alopecia is a rare hair-loss condition that requires just this level of examination. And, even that doesn’t make it easier to understand.
Getting to Grips with Cicatricial Alopecia
Because it’s not a common hair loss condition, it’s challenging for many people to get their head around (even if it’s all around their head). In simple terms, Cicatricial Alopecia destroys the hair follicle while scar tissue takes over the area. This can happen gradually, presenting very little notice to the sufferer – or it can happen rapidly with a great deal of inflammation, and often itchiness, heralding the onset of this condition. (For the record, both are frightening when either happens to you.)
Why does it happen? Who is most likely to suffer? Can you do something to prevent this condition?
You may as well start shrugging your shoulders now; even once Cicatricial Alopecia is diagnosed through a biopsy, there are very few answers. No one knows why this happens or what triggers the inflammation associated with the rapid spread of hair loss. That means there aren’t any precautionary measures that can be taken.
And, it can happen to anybody – male or female, young or old, and every ethnicity is susceptible. It has been more prevalent in African adult women than any other group, but not by margins large enough to allow you a sigh of relief if this doesn’t describe you. Cicatricial Alopecia can occur in otherwise healthy people and do so at the drop of a hat.
The most certainty anyone can have about this condition is that once the hair follicle is dead, natural hair growth is not possible. And that’s true of all hair loss, not just Cicatricial Alopecia.
Besides Inflammation, Is There Anything to Look for?
Cicatricial Alopecia is likely to present itself along with inflammation or scalp redness. But, these aren’t the only symptoms. You may also find itching or pain, tenderness or a burning sensation, and even scaling or pustules.
If any of these symptoms apply to your scalp, you will want to get to a specialist as soon as you possibly can. None of these signify anything good. And waiting isn’t an effective treatment. If it is Cicatricial Alopecia, waiting to see if symptoms pass is equivalent to allowing yourself to go bald; it can, after all, spread through your scalp rather rapidly.
Because Cicatricial Alopecia destroys hair follicles, it’s important to get to a specialist before this happens across your scalp. Early diagnose is the only way to ensure that you keep your own hair. It’s also worth remembering that once those hair follicles are replaced with scar tissue, no hair can possibly grow in that area. Permanent solutions require hair transplants of some sort (alternatively, hair pieces, permanent or otherwise).
If Your Scalp Itches, Should You Run to the Clinic?
Not necessarily. Itchy scalps plague a lot of people, and the most common cause is dandruff. If you notice your scalp itching (and you’ve washed your hair recently enough that it shouldn’t be), your first port of call should be that terrifying moment when you take a closer look in the mirror. You’ll likely see the telltale signs of dandruff on an otherwise pale scalp (and that’s according to your skin tone).
If, however, your scalp appears reddish or is otherwise bothersome (perhaps it feels like it’s on fire), then you should make that call. You can watch it for a few days if you must, but remember that it may be the difference between an anti-inflammatory or topical steroid treatment and full-on surgery. The choice is yours.