In a previous article, we looked at the two most common causes of hair loss in children, tinea capitis and alopecia areata. Although those are the most likely causes, they are not the only ones. Trauma and a condition called telogen effluvium can also cause hair loss in the young.
Trauma to the hair shaft is often caused by traction, which is the result of tight braids and ponytails worn consistently. Trauma may also be caused by friction, such as when the head is constantly rubbing against a bed or wheelchair. Chemical burns are another form of trauma.
Trichotillomania is the habit of twirling and plucking the hair. It’s considered an obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is difficult to treat. It also causes trauma to the hair shaft.
If the actions that are causing trauma to the hair shaft can be eliminated, hair will usually re-grow.
Hair follicles have long growth phases (two to six years), which are followed by brief transitional phases in which the follicle degenerates. Next, there is a resting phase (about three months) when the follicle is dormant. This is the final or telogen phase. After the telogen phase, the growth cycle starts all over. New hairs grow and push out old hair shafts.
At any given time, eighty to ninety percent of the follicles are in growth phase and five percent are in the transition phase. Ten to fifteen percent of follicles are in the telogen phase, which means 50-150 hairs are shed daily.
Children suffering from telogen effluvium have a hair growth cycle that is being interrupted, causing many or all hairs to be in the telogen (final or shedding) phase.
Telogen effluvium can be caused by high fevers, surgery under general anesthesia, an excess of vitamin A, severe stress or injuries, and use of certain prescription medications (such as accutane for acne).
While telogen effluvium is devastating and can be difficult to cope with, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. After whatever is causing the hair loss has passed or been eliminated, full and normal hair growth should begin again within six months to a year.
If your child is suffering with hair loss, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention and remember, contact The American Hair Loss Association before buying any product or service for the treatment of hair loss.