Ask Dr. Renee: Why Do I Have Hair Breakage?

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I have noticed scabs on my scalp and my hair is really breaking off, is there anything I could do or use to help, my hair is so damaged I’m embarrassed to go anywhere

The good news is, this is not caused by any serious medical problems. Many people have hair and scalp problems. Hair may become thin, or fall out or break off. Dandruff or an itching or peeling scalp may cause embarrassment but it can be treated.

Hair loss

The average person loses 50 to 100 hairs per day. The most common cause of thinning or balding of the hair is hereditary. Your hair pattern can be inherited from your mother’s or father’s side of the family. Women with this trait usually develop thinning hair, while men may become completely bald. This can start as early as the teen years. Women who have recently given birth often lose hair for 1 to 6 months after childbirth or after breast-feeding is completed. Other possible causes for excessive hair loss, thinning, or breakage include:

• Trichotillomania, a mental health condition where a person pulls out his or her own hair, usually from the head, eyelashes and eyebrows.
• Side effects of medications or medical treatments such as radioation therapy or chemotherapy.
• Emotional stress, hair loss may occur 4 weeks to 3 months after severe physical or emotional stress.
• Diseases, such as lupus and hyperthyroidism.
• Poor nutrition, especially lack of protein or iron in the diet.
• Damage to the hair shafts from burns or other injuries such as traction alopecia which we discussed a few months ago 
• Damage from hair care products, such as dyes or heat from curling irons, dryers or hot rollers.
• Heavy metal poisoning, such as thallium or arsenic poisoning.

Itching, flaking or crusting of the scalp
There are several causes for itching, flaking or crusting of the scalp. Some of the causes include the following:

• Dandruff, a shedding of the skin on the scalp that leaves white flakes on the head , neck, and shoulders. It may be a form of a skin condition called eczema, which causes increased shedding of normal scalp skin cells. Dandruff can also be caused by a fungal infection. Hormonal or seasonal changes can make dandruff worse.
• Ringworm, a fungal infection of the outer layer of the scalp and in the hair. It usually causes a rash made up of circular patches with raised, red edges that resemble worms. The rash spreads from these edges, often leaving the center clear, giving it a ring shape.
• Psoriasis and seborrhea are chronic skin conditions

Sores, blisters, or bumps on the scalp
Painful sores, blisters, or bumps that develop on the scalp may be caused by:

• Infection of the hair shafts ( folliculitis ) or the skin (such as impetigo ).
• An allergic skin reaction ( contact dermatitis ).
• Viral infections, such as chickenpox and shingles.
• A skin condition, such as acne.
• A cyst, such as an epidermal or sebaceous cyst, a sac beneath the outer layer of the skin that is filled with a greasy white material. These cysts most often appear on the scalp, ears, face, back, or scrotum and are caused by plugged ducts at the site of a hair shaft. Other problems can develop if the cyst becomes infected.

The first thing you need to do is get a diagnosis as to what is causing your scalp sores and breakage. A dermatologist will likely examine your scalp and then possibly biopsy your scalp if necessary. Depending on what they find you may need to change your diet, use a medicated shampoo, stop dying your hair or change your hair care products. There are so many different reasons that could cause this condition it is best to go to the dermatologist and find out the root cause. If you have any other questions please Ask Dr. Renee.

Dr. Renee Matthews has appeared on television shows such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and WGN’s “People to People”  where she discussed different health topics. She started her media career with her own radio show on ReachMD, a programming source for health professionals. In addition Dr. Renee has been a featured medical correspondent on Sirius XM’s “Sway in the Morning.” 

Dr. Renee earned her undergraduate degree in 1999 and her Medical Doctorate in 2005. She spent the early part of her medical career as an educator for numerous hospitals and attending staff on cord blood. 

Twitter: @AskDrRenee

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