What is traction alopecia?
Alopecia is another name for hair loss. Traction alopecia is hair loss that results from repeated pulling on you hair. Repeated traction causes pulling of hair and can even damage the follicles. Damage of the follicles can cause redness, itchiness and when severe ulcers or infections.
Traction alopecia occurs both in children and adults. However it is more common in the older people due to weakening of hair follicles with age.
It is important to note that most cases of traction alopecia are not of medical concern unless the areas of hair loss are seriously infected which is rare. However, they can cause psychological distress that may warrant seeking medical attention.
What causes traction alopecia?
Traction alopecia can be caused by several things pulling your hair repeatedly causing loosening of the hair shaft. Such things include:
- Certain hair styles such as tight pony tails, dreadlocks and tight braids
- Hair extensions or weaves- these cause pulling of hair especially when they are fixed too tightly
- Headwear including tight bands and sports wear
- Very long hair can be heavy and cause a lot of pulling due to their weight. This can cause straining on the hair follicle that may lead to hair loss over a period of time.
- Hair relaxers- these change the structure of the hair strands in a manner that will cause hair loss
- Using hair relaxers and extensions together- studies have shown that this is the most significant risk factor for traction alopecia.
What are the signs of traction alopecia?
Signs of traction alopecia include:
- Receding hair line especially at the fore head and the temples- these areas experience the most strain.
- redness and itchiness of the scalp
- small pimples in the areas that experience strain
- patches of thin or broken hair in places that have been under strain
- shiny, scarred skin in advanced cases.
What are the treatment options for traction alopecia?
To treat traction alopecia, you will need to see a dermatologist. Your dermatologists will discuss with you the condition and take some tissue to rule out other causes of hair loss. What may look like traction alopecia may actually be something else that needs to be treated in a different way to stop the hair loss.
Lifestyle changes are the mainstay treatment for traction alopecia. Some of the new lifestyle changes that can help include:
- avoid hair styles that cause a lot of stretching of the hair. If you have to tie your hair, do it as loosely as possible.
- Change hair styles after a couple of weeks- this helps to prevent strain on one area of the scalp
- Avoid chemicals on your hair including relaxers
- You can use hair growth products such as minoxidil to regrow hair.
- If you hair is long, cut it to reduce the amount of strain on the hair follicles
- Anti-inflammatory creams such as steroids can help reduce the swelling caused by traction.
- Antibiotics may be prescribed by your dermatologists for any open sores.
If there is extensive scarring, hair may not be able to grow in those areas. In such cases, hair transplant is usually the best available option. This will involve transfer of hair follicles from one area of the body to another. The transplanted hair follicles will cause hair to grow in their new site.