Hair loss (alopecia) is a scary and frustrating symptom for parents, especially since you don’t really expect kids to lose their hair.
Unfortunately, hair loss is a common symptom, even in kids. In many cases, the hair loss is temporary though, and the child’s hair does grow back.
Hair Loss in Children
One of the classic causes of hair loss in children that many people think about is hair loss associated with childhood cancer. Although this can definitely cause hair loss, it is usually the cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation (anagen effluvium), that causes the hair loss and not the cancer itself.
Telogen effluvium is another classic cause of hair loss in children, but this condition is often poorly understood by parents. Children with telogen effluvium have often had a recent illness, typically with a high fever, surgery, sudden weight loss, or even an emotional stress, and then suddenly lose a lot of hair about six weeks to three months later.
Children with telogen effluvium continue to lose hair, often in large clumps for a few weeks or months, to the point that their hair may be noticeably thin. But then their hair begins to grow again in about six months without any treatments. It is thought that this hair loss occurs because the original stressor pushes the child’s hair into a resting or dormant phase, instead of its more usual long growth phase. It then falls out until new hair grows and then follows the normal growth phase.
Hair loss, or alopecia, isn’t just a problem for adults. Hair loss in children is responsible for an estimated 3% of pediatric office visits in the U.S. Whether your child has thinning hair or distinct bald spots, the loss of hair can be frightening. The good news is that, with a proper diagnosis, most cases of hair loss can be treated successfully.
Medical Causes of Hair Loss in Children
For the majority of children 26 months or older suffering hair loss, one of the following conditions is the cause. Your child’s pediatrician or a pediatric dermatologist should be able to diagnose these conditions and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Tinea capitis – Tinea capitis, commonly known as ringworm of the scalp, is a fungal infection often seen in children. It can show up in a number of ways, but often as scaly patches of hair loss on the head. The patches are usually round or oval. The hairs may be broken off at the surface of the skin and look like black dots on the scalp.
If your child’s doctor suspects tinea capitis, a microscopic examination can confirm the diagnosis. Treatment usually involves an oral antifungal, such as griseofulvin taken by mouth for eight weeks. Your child should also use an antifungal shampoo such as selenium sulfide or ketoconazole to decrease shedding of the fungus.
Because ringworm is contagious, your child should be careful not to share any objects that touch the head such as hats, pillow cases, hair clippers, or brushes.
Alopecia areata – Alopecia areata is a non-contagious condition of hair loss thought to be caused by the body’s immune system attacking the hair follicles. It is characterized by the sudden appearance of round or oval patches of hair loss. The patches are slick or smooth, without scaling or broken hairs. About 25% of children also have pitting and ridging of the nails.
While there is no cure for alopecia areata, treatment can control the disease in some children. Many have their hair back within a year, although regrowth is unpredictable and many will lose hair again. For about 5% of children the disease progresses to alopecia totalis — loss of all of the hair on the scalp. Some of these will develop alopecia universalis — a total loss of body hair.
For younger children, treatment consists primarily of strong corticosteroid ointments or creams applied to the bald areas. Teenagers, who may be sufficiently motivated to have their hair return, may tolerate steroid injections into the scalp. Minoxidil (Rogaine) is often used in additional to topical steroid treatment. Anthralin applied to the skin for a short time and then washed off may also be used. Hair growth may come back in 8-12 weeks.
Trichotillomania – Trichotillomania is hair loss caused by the child pulling, plucking, twisting, or rubbing his or her hair. The hair loss is patchy and characterized by broken hairs of varying length. Patches are typically seen on the side of the child’s dominant hand.
WebMD Medical Reference:
Other Causes of Hair Loss in Children
In addition to ringworm, hair pulling, traction alopecia, and the other causes of hair loss mentioned above, other less common causes of hair loss can include:
thyroid disorders, including either hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
illnesses, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, diabetes mellitus, or iron-deficiency anemia
vitamin A toxicity
structural abnormalities of the hair shaft which usually results in easy breakage and dry, brittle hair
Help for Hair Loss in Children
He or she will likely be able to diagnose and treat common causes of hair loss, such as ringworm, traction alopecia, and telogen effluvium. For other conditions, including trichotillomania and alopecia arreata, your pediatrician will likely refer you to a specialist for further treatment.
Guci Image, leaders and innovators of all types of hair loss solutions has been treating children for more than two decades. Aside from our wide range of state-of-the-art technologies, understanding the emotional effect hair loss has on kids is just as important. “It’s not all about the technology,” Joseph G. Lore President of Guci Image explains, “It’s about treating children differently than you would an adult”. Our highly trained staff of technicians not only provides exceptional skill, but compassion, comfort and empathy that is a must when treating children’s Hair Loss. It is due to this level of expertise and commitment, that Guci has established its reputation as the leader in its field.
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