Hair is part of the skin and disorders of the hair can, therefore, be treated by dermatologists. It grows out of hair follicles that arise from the top layer of the skin, the epidermis, and project down into the next layer down called the dermis with a dilated area at their base called a bulb.

The function of hair is not just cosmetic; it also has a protective role, helps to regulate temperature, and acts as a sense organ. Hair disorders, therefore, have a very high emotional impact. Dr Williams can diagnose what type of hair disorder you are experiencing and advise on the most appropriate management of it.

Types of hair disorder

Hair shaft abnormalities

These may or may not cause increase hair fragility and can be either genetic or due to external physical or chemical damage to the hair shaft.

Infections

Infections that can affect the scalp include:

  • Folliculitis which may be caused by bacterial infection of the hair follicles and presents as small lumps and pustules around the hairs which can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Tinea capitis also known as scalp ringworm – a highly contagious fungal infection that especially affects children and causes scaly patches of hair loss as well as enlarged lymph nodes that requires oral antifungal treatment
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis: it is thought that this is caused by an immune reaction to a yeast called Malassezia and presents with patches of red, itchy scaly skin. Although it can often be a recurrent problem it usually responds well to treatment.

 Hirsutism (excess hair)

Although there is considerable individual variation in the quantity of body hair, hirsutism means excessive growth of thick and dark hair at particular sites including the face, neck, chest, tummy, lower back and buttocks.  It can sometimes indicate an underlying hormone problem and it is, therefore, a good idea to seek medical advice.

 Alopecia (hair loss)

Scarring alopecias: certain conditions including discoid lupus, lichen planopilaris and frontal fibrosing alopecia cause permanent damage to the hair follicles and making a diagnosis early to try to prevent this is important.

Alopecia areata: this is an autoimmune condition that presents as patches of baldness. They usually appear on the scalp but can appear elsewhere on the body and it is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the hair follicles. It is a non-scarring alopecia and, in many cases, the hair will re-grow spontaneously with no treatment, but it can progress to complete hair loss.

 Male and female pattern hair loss: is a type of hair loss that can affect both men and women, particularly over the age of 50. It is caused by the hair follicles becoming sensitive to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that causes them to become smaller and finer until the hair follicle no longer produces new hairs.

What are the treatment options for hair disorders?

The first step is to receive a correct diagnosis of your hair disorder and then Dr Williams can advise you on realistic expectations for management of it.  If a condition causing a scarring alopecia is active, it is important to treat it to try to prevent further hair loss.