Only two options exist for traction alopecia treatment, and success depends upon how early help is sought. If traction alopecia treatment begins early, it might be reversed by changing hairstyles to ease tension placed on hair shafts. In late stages of the condition, hair replacement represents the only viable traction alopecia treatment option.
Traction alopecia is a progressive condition that commonly starts at the front of the head and near the temples. It can appear elsewhere, depending on how the hair is worn and how tightly it is pulled to create the style. When excess tension occurs over a long period of time, it damages roots and leads to breakage and hair loss. Traction alopecia treatment might be as simple as wearing a looser hairstyle that does not put stress on roots.
This condition appears most often in African-American men and women who use braids or cornrows as their preferred hairstyle. These styles sometimes minimize the kinky, curly appearance of hair by smoothing out tresses. Tightly woven braids pull at the temple and front part of the head, where traction alopecia typically first appears.
When patients seek traction alopecia treatment, doctors might explain how the condition develops and advise patients to change hairstyles. In some cases, patients may think hair loss stems from genetics because they have seen the condition in relatives over generations. If extensive damage exists, the only traction alopecia treatment available is hair transplantation.
Transplants might consist of hair grafts or flaps sewn onto the scalp. Grafts typically employ donor hair from one part of the head to fill in areas that appear bald. This is done a few follicles at a time, or by excising strips of hair as surgical implants. Hair flaps might come from another part of the body if ample donor sites are available.
In addition to black men and women, traction alopecia occurs in Sikh boys who wear tight buns on the tops of their heads. Sikh men who twist their beards into a knot also might suffer hair loss. This condition also affects Japanese women who favor tight chignons on the head, and in South Korean nurses who use pins to secure nursing caps to the scalp.
Some patients seek traction alopecia treatment after wearing hair extensions sewn and braided into natural hair. Long or numerous extensions might place extra weight on natural hair follicles, resulting in patchy hair loss. Removing hair extensions can be an effective treatment when the condition is caught early. The use of harsh chemicals, such as dyes, bleaches, and straightening products, might also lead to root damage, causing hair to fall out when combing or brushing.