Fluctuating hormone levels, stress, a poor diet — it seems that a great number of things can cause you to lose your hair, either on a permanent or temporary basis. While some types of hair loss are due to your genes, others are due to an outside agent, such as an infection. A number of infectious agents can disrupt the growth of your hair, causing it to fall out. While this can be upsetting and difficult to cope with, the good news is that the hair loss is usually reversible.
As the name suggests, folliculitis is a type of infection that affects your hair follicles. Although it can be caused by viruses, fungi or ingrown hairs, the most common cause of folliculitis is a Staphylococcus aureus infection. Another type of bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginos, can cause a type of folliculitis known as “hot tub folliculitis,” mostly because the bacteria responsible is often found in hot tubs that aren’t properly maintained.
Signs of the infection or condition often include redness around the hair follicles or small blemishes that look like pimples around the follicles. If the condition is severe, hair loss can occur, as the follicles can become sufficiently damaged. Depending on the severity of the condition, the follicles might be permanently damaged, meaning that the hair loss is permanent.
Ringworm of the scalp, or tinea capitis, is another infection that can lead to hair loss. The infection is caused by dermatophytes, which are a type of fungus. While the name might imply that it is caused by worms, it’s not. Instead, the name is due to the appearance of the infection on the scalp: a small ring shaped patch.
The infection causes hair loss by attacking the top layer of skin and the hair shafts on the scalp. The fungus attacks the hairs, causing them to become fragile and to break easily. Usually, hair loss due to ringworm appears in the form of bald patches all over the scalp. The patches might be bright red, scaly or gray. Depending on how the hair loss occurs, a person might have what look to be tiny black dots over the surface of the scalp. The black dots are what remains of the hair that has broken off.
While in many cases, the lost hair grows back when the infection clears, some people can develop what’s called kerion. Kerion is an inflammation of the scalp that can cause the hair to fall out from the follicles, instead of breaking off. The hair loss in that case can be permanent.
Piedra is another condition that causes hair loss due to a fungus. Typically, there are two types of piedra, black and white. Each type is caused by a different type of fungus and might affect a different area of the body. In many cases, a person’s location determines whether he or she is more likely to have black piedra or white piedra.
The word “piedra” means stone in Spanish, and the name might refer to the nodules that form on the hair shaft in infected people. The nodules are very hard and are made up of the fungi. Piedra can cause hair loss by weakening the hair, so that it breaks. Hair loss from piedra is typically patchy.
What You Can Do
If you believe that you have an infection that is causing you to lose your hair, the first thing to do is see a doctor to get the condition properly diagnosed. Treatment depends on what is causing the infection. In the case of ringworm, treatment usually involves taking an oral anti-fungal medication. You might also be advised to wash the hair with an anti-fungal shampoo. It’s important to take the medicine or to use the shampoo for the full length of time recommended by your doctor, so that the medicine is able to fully work.
Treatment of piedra depends on the type. The goal is to kill off the fungus, but not all types respond to anti-fungal medications. You might need to shave off the affected hair and wait for healthy hair to grow back or use a topical treatment that will remove the nodules.
Folliculitis can be treated in several ways. If it is caused by bacteria, an oral antibiotic can help kill the bacteria and clear the infection. If the infection is mild, a topical antibiotic ointment might be sufficient. Infections caused by a fungus will need an antifungal cream to clear up.
While any hair lost due to a infection will usually return once the infection is cleared, there are instances when the damage to the hair follicle is enough to cause permanent hair loss. In that case, a hair transplant might be needed to restore the lost hair.
In the Virginia Beach area, Dr. Kyle Choe, a hair restoration specialist, can examine your scalp and determine the cause of your hair loss and whether hair restoration surgery is a good option for you. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Choe, call (789) 357-5850 today.