Another Bad Hair Day or Something Worse?

Your hair can be an indicator of several potential health issues. Certain conditions attack the hair, leading to unpleasant symptoms such as a dry, flaky scalp, itching and soreness. But how do you know if you're just having "a bad hair day", if you're ill, or if you simply need to take better care of your hair?
What Can Your Hair Tell You About Your Health?

 Dealing With Dandruff


You can't "catch" dandruff from another person, so how do youget it? Doctors are still uncertain. There may be more than one cause fordandruff. The most common cause is probably a growth of microscopic fungi onthe scalp. Research also suggests links between dandruff and oily skin, beingoverweight, poor diet, anxiety and stress, and other skin disorders such aspsoriasis and eczema. It's an unpleasant condition, but several treatments areworth trying, and it isn't a threat to health.


Whatever causes your dandruff, the flakes themselves are dead skincells. Many people find daily washing with an anti-dandruff shampoo helps keepthe condition under control. You may need to experiment with different brandsand ingredients before you find the one that works for you. If you can't find ashampoo in the drugstore that does the trick, speak to your doctor, as amedical practitioner may recommend other treatments.


If the flakes from your scalp are yellow, it could indicate you have aninflammatory condition called seborrheic dermatitis. In mild cases,anti-dandruff shampoo may help, but if the condition doesn't respond to regularwashing or worsens, speak to your doctor about antifungal medication orsteroids which are often effective.


Pulling Your Hair Out Over Hair Loss?


Your hair is constantly growing, falling out, and being replaced.Research estimates the average person loses over 100 hairs each day. Each hairundergoes a natural cycle of growth, resting, and replacement. Every hair onyour head is replaced every two to three months. 


The period between the end of new growth and replacement is called the"telogen phase". In normal conditions, only about 10% of hair will bein the telogen phase at any one time, while the rest will be in growth orreplacement phases. But if you've had a severe shock, either physical,psychological or emotional, more hair can become arrested in the telogen phase.As the stress passes and the cycle begins again, you might lose hair in clumps.It's a condition known as "telogen effluvium". While it's unsightlyand inconvenient, it's nothing to worry about. The hair will grow backstraightaway and things will return to normal over the following months.


Another condition which leads to hair loss is "alopeciaareata". It's a disorder of the immune system which damages the hairfollicles. In mild cases, a sufferer may only have a few small bald patches,but in severe cases, it results in complete loss of all body hair. Hair maygrow back naturally and treatments involve injections which encourage hair toregrow.


As you get older, it's normal for your hair to "thin out". But"pattern baldness", where a bald patch appears on the top of thehead, or the hair recedes back from the temples and the forehead, is much lesscommon in women than in men. If you develop female pattern baldness, see yourdoctor, as there are several treatments which can slow it down if not reversethe process.


Graying hair is a normal part of aging, but if your hair changes colorwhen you're still in your twenties or thirties it's probably due to geneticinheritance. However, you may wish to see your doctor, as premature graying isalso related to the onset of anemia, vitamin deficiency, and thyroidproblems. 


How to Keep a Head of Healthy Hair


Aside from regular washing and brushing, a healthy, balanced diet is thebest way to look after your hair. As any other part of your body, your hairneeds good nutrition to grow and maintain its condition. Make sure your dietincludes plenty of proteins, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamins. Avegetable and fruit-based diet with moderate fish and meat consumption anddrinking plenty of water is the healthiest way to eat. 


Oily fish like salmon are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, as arewalnuts; green, leafy vegetables like spinach provide proteins and iron, and carrotsare a good source of vitamin A; cashew and Brazil nuts provide lots of seleniumand zinc, which will help keep your hair strong and shining.  


The outer, protective layer of the hair is called the cuticle. It iseasily damaged by over-styling, heating, and repeated dying. When the cuticlewears away, your hair loses its natural sheen and can become brittle. There'snothing wrong with styling, but try to allow your hair recovery periods, too.


If you're feeling healthy, eating well, and looking after your hair,most hair problems won't indicate underlying medical issues. But if youexperience sudden or dramatic hair-loss, an itchy and sore scalp, or feel lowon energy, it's always worth consulting your physician just to be on the safeside. A good diet and proper hair care should help you avoid the worst of"bad hair days" and keep you in good health.



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