Can your hair and scalp also show signs of ill-health?
Possibly. Sometimes a lack of sufficient care can cause poor appearance and texture of your hair and scalp. In other cases, it may indicate something wrong in the body or occur as a result of an adverse reaction to a specific type of medication.
Some signs you may note when it comes to your hair and scalp include:
- (Not so) fine and dandy: Scalp flakiness and dandruff happen to many people and can occur as a result of an overgrowth of a fungus. Dandruff is not contagious, but can be itchy and even embarrassing. If the flakes you see on your scalp appear yellow and greasy, this could indicate a problem with seborrheic dermatitis (an inflammatory skin condition that occurs when the body has excess oil glands). This condition is linked to hormones, some neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, or a fungus. Dead skin cells (dandruff) can be cleared away with daily use of an antidandruff shampoo (this must be thoroughly rinsed). If you find that this does not help, consult your doctor for advice or a thorough check-up. In some cases, a severe case of dandruff may be rectified with prescribed steroids or antifungal medications.
- Hair by the handful? The average person may shed up to 100 (or more) hairs a day. This is normal and does not indicate a problem in the body. An average person may have about 100 000 hair follicles, of which 90% of these are consistently producing hair at any given time. The remaining 10% remain in a resting phase (known as telogen). These hairs fall out every 2 to 3 months, and are replaced with new hair, beginning the growth cycle all over again. When a person goes through a physical trauma (injury, child birth or surgery) or has a reaction to vaccinations or medications (anticlotting, cholesterol-lowering, antidepressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, menopause, birth control, and antibiotics), severe stress, a crash diet (low-calorie diets can stunt hair growth or leave its appearance looking lifeless and limp, if the body is not getting a sufficient amount of nutrients) or a thyroid problem, a higher percentage of hair follicles can be forced into a telogen state. Within 2 to 3 months, you may notice more of your hair falling out than usual and resulting in thinning. This is called telogen effluvium. Sometimes hair begins to grow back right away when the underlying stress cause is resolved.
- Turning grey before middle age? Greying hair before the age of 40 may be genetic, and not necessarily a sign of poor health. Premature greying hair can, however, happen as a sign of anaemia, a vitamin B-12 deficiency, a problem with the thyroid or vitiligo (white patches on the skin).