Hair is something that most people take for granted. However, unexpected changes should be noted and if necessary, a doctor should be consulted. In their book, “Body Signs,” Joan Liebmann-Smith and Jacqueline Nardi Egan list some of the signs to look out for as well as the problems they could indicate.
Changes in Hair Texture
Hair contains a large number of minerals and is affected by a person’s age, sex, race, area of residence and hair products used. Forensic analysis can reveal certain poisons that may pass into the hairs. Dry brittle hair and split ends may be a sign of too much sun and swimming or chemical treatments but can also be a sign of an underactive thyroid, stress and poor diet.
In women, pregnancy and menopause can cause hair to become thicker, more or less oily and to curl or straighten.
Changes in Hair Color
The most common change to hair color is the process of turning grey and then white as color pigments decrease as the person ages. This is a normal consequence of age but there are other factors that can cause a change in hair color, including the following:
- Chemotherapy often causes hair loss – and when the hair begins to grow again, it may be a different color for a few months
- A green tinge in hair can be a sign that the swimming pool is over-chlorinated. It can also be caused by copper water pipes feeding into the pool. In rare cases, green hair can be caused by mercury poisoning.
- Striped hair manifests as bands of hair that is blonde, grey or reddish and is caused by severe nutritional deficiencies.
- Prematurely grey hair can be a sign of various disorders including pernicious anemia and Graves’ disease.
Changes in Hair Growth
Human hair grows about a half inch each month. The average person will shed about 50 to 100 hairs a day, which is normal. About 90% of hair is in a growing stage at any one time, while 10% will be in a resting phase.
- The medical term for abnormal hair loss is alopecia. This is an autoimmune disorder and can cause partial or total hair loss
- Chemotherapy attacks rapidly dividing cancer cells but also stops hair growth. New growth normally begins within a few months of the completion of chemotherapy
- Hormonal imbalance and disorders can cause hair loss
- Poor diet or an excess or deficiency of certain foods can cause hair loss
Hair is a sign of beauty and people spend money on keeping it looking good. Problems with hair can be distressing and may need medical investigation. The most common problems involve hair color, hair texture and hair growth. If a change or condition appears suddenly and there is no apparent reason for it, it is best to visit a doctor.
Liebmann-Smith, Joan and Jacqueline Nardi Egan, Body Signs, Bantam Dell 2008