Scientific Area

Hair loss from trichotillomania

CATEGORIES SCIENTIFIC AREA

Scientific collaboration between Professor Marco Toscani and Dr. Pasquale Fino, Chair of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, Umberto I Health Center – “Sapienza” University of Rome.

Trichotillomania alopecia: meaning and psychological causes

Trichotillomania is a type of hair loss due to voluntary pulling by the patient which often ends up breaking the hair shaft. In general, the patient twists the hair around a finger.
The gesture is occasional when going to sleep or concentrating on a task, but may become repetitive or obsessive.
It can lead to one or more areas of hair loss, usually in an irregular and bizarre shape. In these patches, the hair appears broken into different lengths, features a normal color and structure and does not detach easily. The most commonly affected areas are the frontoparietal regions of the side corresponding to the dominant cerebral hemisphere.

The condition mostly arises during infancy (men) and adolescence (women). At these ages the phenomenon is an expression of distress, a way to call for attention from the parent. While, if present in an adult, the psychological problem is more serious. Psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and psychosis are to be considered.

Life cycle of hair

The life cycle of hair and its subsequent growth occur at a speed of 1-1.5 cm per month. Hair is a living element that follows a follicle cycle with an average duration of 2-6 years. In humans, unlike other mammals that are subject to a periodic change, this cyclic evolution is not synchronous (therefore each hair is independent from the others).

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Psychogenic alopecia (psychological baldness)

Psychogenic alopecia is a type of hair loss related to stress. Though not yet scientifically explained, this connection is well-known in the experience of those working with the problem. In addition to stress, other causes are personality disorders, states of anxiety and depression, all of which are conditions of acute or chronic stress.

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Premature hair loss

Recent studies have demonstrated that around one in five young men tend to lose their hair prematurely over time.
This problem does not affect only young men but also young women.

In the majority of cases, it is androgenetic alopecia (pattern hair loss) and therefore is hereditary/genetic. However, it is important to remember that often factors of psychological origin like performance anxiety, trauma and emotional stress take over, thereby becoming a source and cause of hair loss from stress.

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Sebaceous glands

The sebaceous glands are glands that secrete sebum, an oily, acidic substance with a pH of 3.5. They are connected laterally to the hair follicle. Sebaceous glands are found with a density of approximately 100/cm2 throughout all areas of the skin. In the human body, they are located across the entire surface of the skin, except for the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

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Hyperhidrosis

Excess sweat production on the entire surface of the body or just in some areas (especially the scalp, palms of the hands, soles of the feet) is called hyperhidrosis.
Some of the causes that may lead to temporary hyperhidrosis are physical hyperactivity, fevers, saunas, vomiting and dysentery. Causes that may instead lead to a repeated state of hyperhidrosis are hyperthyroidism, hypoglycemia and alcoholism

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