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ARE DANDRUFF AND HAIR LOSS RELATED?

Dandruff can be a benign and an easily treatable condition. But flaking and itching can result from with many other scalp conditions – and cause alopecia.

 

If a person has noticeable dandruff, does it portend hair loss soon or in the future?

Probably not. But there are different kinds of hair and scalp problems that can cause flakiness – and some of those can indeed lead to temporary, and in some cases, permanent hair loss. These scalp conditions cannot usually be solved at the local hair loss treatment clinic that specializes in men’s and womens hair loss solutions or hair loss surgery for men. Begin with your family physician or dermatologist.

Rather than say, “it’s just dandruff,” let’s break down the major categories of hair and scalp conditions that itch and involve scaliness, and the degree to which they can cause hair loss. They are:

Stress, medications, genetics, compromised immune system

There are several ways that seborrheic dermatitis, also known as seborrheic eczema, can occur. It’s characterized by excess sebum production (oily skin) and is potentially a cause of hair loss when irritation and inflammation on the scalp leads to itchiness and scratching. This can disrupt hair growth and ultimately lead to patchy hair loss.

In addition to the causes listed above, flare ups can be triggered by new stress, cold and dry weather, and even harsh shampoos.

Complete cures for seborrheic dermatitis do not exist as it is a chronic, lifelong condition. That said, symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medications, including topical treatments. They include pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, salicylic acid, and medicated shampoos. By treating the symptoms, it becomes possible to reduce itchiness and flakiness, and for normal hair growth to resume.

Fungal infections

The world is full of fungi, some friend and others foe. Several are technically yeast, which is a form of fungus.

Consider Malassezia, which contributes to dandruff. If untreated is can cause inflammation on the scalp, which in turn weakens hair shafts which then leads to thinning and hair loss. This fungus can opportunistically join with seborrheic dermatitis to make things worse. As with other hair and scalp infections, the inflammation leads to scratching and consequently localized hair loss.

Another fungal infection is ringworm. The name implies the existence of a parasite, but most cases are caused by a fungal infection known as microsporum audiouinii. It can infect any part of the body, but in the scalp the infection penetrates hair shaft, which leads to breakage at the scalp level – often leaving a ring of hair loss. Adults with the condition can treat it successfully in about a month with a medication known as Terbinafine.

Bacterial infections and parasites

A very common infection of the scalp is folliculitis, meaning, infection of the follicles. The real cause is physical injury, such as from sports headgear, hats, or heavy scratching and, often, shaving. Any number of microorganisms can enter those injured areas – including staph bacteria, other types of bacteria, parasites, or fungi. When pimple-like sores appear, followed by oozing, crusty sores, it can destroy hair follicles. The result is patchy bald spots. Early treatments recommended by a dermatologist would address the specific microorganism that is causing the infection. But if treated later, the hair loss could be permanent.

The bottom line is this: mild cases of dandruff can be treated with dandruff shampoos. But if the problem persists, see a dermatologist who can make a proper diagnosis and recommend effective treatment before hair loss becomes a long-term reality.