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Common Causes for Hair Loss in Children

Posted: Friday, February 9th, 2018

The American Hair Loss Association reports that children’s hair loss is responsible for about 3% of all pediatric office visits in the United States. Although this is a very distressing issue, there is comfort in knowing that most pediatric alopecia patients can be successfully treated after proper diagnosis. This makes it very important to speak to your pediatrician as soon as any amount of hair loss is noticed in your child. The following conditions are the likely causes for your child’s hair loss:

Tinea capitis. This disease is caused by a fungal infection of the scalp’s skin (ringworm of the scalp) and other areas like eyebrows and eyelashes, oftentimes attacking the hair shaft and follicle. It’s the most common cause of pediatric alopecia and its occurrence is on the rise. Children suffering from tinea capitis have patchy hair loss with broken hairs at the surface of the scalp. This disease can be treated with an antifungal and special shampoo for a total of eight weeks. Children with tinea capitis can stay in school while being treated as they aren’t contagious when following treatment directions.

Alopecia areata. This condition is known to occur overnight, and results in round or oval shaped hair loss. The resulting bald patches are smooth without any redness, scaling or broken hairs. Alopecia areata is thought to be caused by the immune system attacking the hair follicles. Approximately 1 in 1,000 children has this condition, however, with proper treatment, a large percentage of patients will have their hair back within a year. Of those who develop alopecia areata, 5% will progress to developing alopecia totalis. There is no cure for alopecia areata, nor any FDA approved drug or treatments.  There are, however, several drugs that can be prescribed off label for the treatment of alopecia areata. A health care professional should be consulted to determine the best options for your child.

Trauma. Trauma to the hair shaft is another common cause of hair loss in children. Trauma can occur through traction, friction or even chemical burns.  Alternatively, trichotillomania is a misunderstood form of trauma hair loss. With trichotillomania, those affected have the habit of twirling or plucking their hair. This obsessive-compulsive disorder results in patchy hair loss, with broken hairs of different lengths. As long as the trauma is not severe or chronic, the hair should regrow once the trauma has stopped.

Telogen Effluvium. For the majority of people, 80% to 90% of their follicles are in the growth phase, 5% are in the brief transition phase, and 10% to 15% are in the telogen phase. As a result, 50-150 hairs are shed and replaced by new hairs every day. By contrast, with telogen effluvium, this normal life cycle is disrupted and many or all of the hairs are thrown into the telogen phase. Partial or complete baldness results a mere 6-16 weeks later. Telogen effluvium can be caused by extremely high fevers, surgery under general anesthesia, excess vitamin A, severe prolonged emotional stress, severe injuries and the use of certain prescription medication. Despite the severe hair loss caused by telogen effluvium, full hair growth in children usually occurs between six months and one year after the stressful event is over.

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