Intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy is a rare genetic disorder that affects hair growth and hair shafts. It is characterized by the presence of sparse, fragile, and easily breakable hair, which is often accompanied by a loss of hair pigmentation. The hair follicles are intermittently affected, which means that the hair growth cycle is disrupted, leading to a patchy distribution of hair on the scalp and body.
The hair loss associated with intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy is usually not permanent, but rather a cyclic process of hair growth and hair loss. The hair may grow back in a few months or a few years, but it may also become permanently affected if left untreated. The hair growth cycle is usually normal in other areas of the scalp, but the affected areas may become larger over time.
There are several causes of this condition, ranging from genetics, autoimmune disorders, hormonal imbalances, and environmental factors. In this article, we will discuss the main causes of intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy in detail.
One of the main causes of intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy is genetics. This condition can be inherited from parents and passed down from generation to generation. Genetic predisposition to hair loss and baldness is a complex condition and is influenced by multiple genes. When these genes are activated, they lead to hair loss and bald patches.
- Hormonal Imbalance:
Hormonal imbalances can also cause intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy. Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy, menopause, and puberty, can cause temporary hair loss. Hormonal imbalances can also be caused by certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disease, and adrenal gland disorders.
- Autoimmune Disorders:
Autoimmune disorders can also cause intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy. In these conditions, the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, leading to hair loss and bald patches. Alopecia areata is one of the most common autoimmune disorders that cause hair loss and baldness.
Certain medications can also cause hair loss and bald patches. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and medications used to treat depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease can all lead to hair loss. In most cases, hair loss is temporary and will grow back once the medication is stopped.
- Environmental Factors:
Environmental factors, such as stress, pollution, and poor nutrition, can also cause hair loss and bald patches. Stress can cause the body to produce cortisol, a hormone that can lead to hair loss. Exposure to pollution and toxic chemicals can also damage hair follicles and lead to hair loss. A lack of essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron and biotin, can also cause hair loss.
Infections, such as fungal infections, can also cause hair loss and bald patches. Fungal infections can affect the scalp and hair follicles, leading to hair loss. Ringworm, a fungal infection, is one of the most common causes of hair loss and bald patches.
- Traction Alopecia:
Traction alopecia is a condition where hair loss occurs due to repeated pulling or tension on the hair. This can be caused by tight hairstyles, such as braids, cornrows, and ponytails. Over time, this repeated pulling can damage the hair follicles and lead to hair loss.
The following are the main symptoms of Intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy:
- Balding patches: The most prominent symptom of Intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy is the development of balding patches on the scalp. These patches are usually circular in shape and may be found anywhere on the scalp. They may start as small patches but can grow larger over time.
- Recurrent hair loss: The hair loss associated with Intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy is characterized by recurring episodes of hair loss, followed by periods of regrowth. The hair loss episodes can be severe and last for several weeks or months, followed by a period of regrowth.
- Thinner hair: The hair that regrows after an episode of hair loss is often thinner and less pigmented than the original hair. This can result in a noticeable difference in the thickness and color of the hair.
- Scalp irritation: Some people with Intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy experience itching, redness, and inflammation on the scalp. This can be a result of the hair follicles becoming irritated and inflamed.
- Scalp scarring: In severe cases of Intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy, scarring may occur on the scalp. This can result in permanent hair loss and a noticeable change in the appearance of the scalp.
- Nail changes: In some cases, Intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy may also affect the nails. The nails may become brittle, thickened, and discolored.
- Psychological distress: The physical changes associated with Intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy can cause significant psychological distress, including anxiety and depression. This can be a result of the stigma associated with hair loss and the impact it has on a person’s appearance and self-esteem.
Diagnosis of Intermittent Hair-Follicle Dystrophy
The diagnosis of Intermittent Hair-Follicle Dystrophy is based on the symptoms, medical history, and physical examination. The doctor may ask questions about the patient’s hair loss history, including when it started, the pattern of hair loss, and any other symptoms that may be present.
Physical examination is an important part of the diagnostic process. The doctor will examine the scalp and hair for any signs of hair loss or thinning. They may also examine the hair under a microscope to look for any abnormalities in the hair follicles.
Tests for Intermittent Hair-Follicle Dystrophy
In addition to a physical examination, the following tests may be performed to diagnose Intermittent Hair-Follicle Dystrophy:
- Trichoscopy: This is a type of skin examination that uses a microscope to look at the hair and scalp. Trichoscopy can help identify the cause of hair loss and help diagnose Intermittent Hair-Follicle Dystrophy.
- Pull test: During this test, the doctor gently pulls a small number of hairs from the scalp to see if they come out easily. If the hairs come out easily, it may be a sign of Intermittent Hair-Follicle Dystrophy.
- Hair Plucking Test: This test involves plucking a small number of hairs from the scalp and examining them under a microscope. This test can help determine if the hair follicles are abnormal, which is a characteristic of Intermittent Hair-Follicle Dystrophy.
- Biopsy: A biopsy of the scalp may be performed to examine the hair follicles and determine if there is any damage or abnormal growth. This test can also help rule out other causes of hair loss, such as alopecia areata or autoimmune diseases.
- Blood Tests: Blood tests may be performed to rule out other medical conditions that can cause hair loss, such as autoimmune diseases or hormonal imbalances.
There is no cure for intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy, but there are several treatments that can help manage the symptoms. Here is a list of the most common treatments for this condition:
The most commonly prescribed medications for intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy are topical corticosteroids, which help to reduce inflammation and itching on the scalp. Other medications that may be prescribed include topical calcineurin inhibitors, which help to reduce the production of cytokines (proteins involved in the immune response) and reduce itching and scaling.
In addition to topical medications, oral medications may also be prescribed, such as antihistamines, which can help to reduce itching and inflammation, and antibiotics, which can help to control any secondary bacterial infections.
Phototherapy is a form of light therapy that uses UV light to treat skin conditions. It has been found to be effective in managing the symptoms of intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy by reducing itching, scaling, and hair loss.
Minoxidil is a topical medication that is commonly used to treat hair loss. It works by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles, which helps to promote hair growth. Although it is not specifically approved for use in intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy, some studies have shown that it can be effective in managing the symptoms of this condition.
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
PRP therapy is a form of regenerative medicine that uses the patient’s own blood to promote hair growth. The patient’s blood is drawn and processed to concentrate the platelets, which contain growth factors that help to stimulate hair growth. This therapy has been found to be effective in treating hair loss and promoting hair growth in patients with intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy.
- Hair transplantation
Hair transplantation is a surgical procedure in which hair follicles are taken from one area of the scalp and transplanted to another area where hair growth is sparse. This procedure can help to restore hair growth in patients with intermittent hair-follicle dystrophy.