The four general causes of hair loss are: Heredity Each individual's hair growth pattern is a unique, genetically determined phenomenon, like fingerprints. Unfortunately, genetically inspired hair loss is both the most common and most permanent cause of baldness. Men are prone to the spread of bald patches, beginning over the temples, the center of the brow; or on the pate.
Systemic problems. These include severe vitamin deficiency, major illness, prolonged fever, cancer, thyroid imbalance, and anemia. Medications, including some anticancer drugs, cause hair loss. New mothers occasionally have postpartum thinning. Systemic hair loss problems are normally temporary. Once the underlying condition is corrected, hair returns to normal growth and quality.
Localized infections and reactions. Severe infections and seborrhea (dandruff) can lead to temporary patchy baldness. Hair strengtheners, shampoos, and other cosmetics can destroy hair through an allergic or irritant reaction, also temporary.
Alopecia areata. A fascinating condition about which we know virtually nothing. Alopecia is a Greek term meaning baldness (of sheep and birds as well as humans). It may occur on part of, or over the entire scalp. Sometimes all body hair disappears.
When localized, alopecia is temporary. The more widespread the condition, the more likely that it will be permanent.
When hair begins falling out, particularly if it is accompanied by other symptoms, see a physician. It may be an early warning of a disease whose treatment will end the hair problem as well.
Hair Cream Warning: Prolonged use of hair creams and lotions containing estrogen has caused breast enlargement in men and young children. Also: One hair product led to vaginal bleeding in women as old as 82. Problem: Because cosmetics are not regulated, no one knows which products contain estrogen.
Now on anther matter. Vaccines For Adults: More than half of American adults fail to take advantage of available vaccines. Important: Don't count on your doctor to keep track for you.
* Tetanus and diptheria immunity: Important for all adults. Requires an initial series of three shots (usually given in childhood) and boosters every 10 years.
* Measles vaccine: Should be given to any adult born after 1956 who has not had either a documented case of the disease or an injection with live-virus vaccine. Caution: The killed-virus vaccines available between 1963 and 1967 are ineffective. !you're unsure, it is advisable to have a live-virus vaccine administered.
* Rubella vaccine: Should be given to all adults who were not immunized as children. Most in need: Women likely to become pregnant. (Rubella severely damages developing fetuses.)
* Hepatitis vaccine: A good idea for those who are routinely exposed to blood and blood products.
* Influenza vaccine: Should be given annually to everyone over 65. Others at high risk because of poor health or frequent exposure to people sick with the disease should also consider vaccination.
* Pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine: For everyone over 65 and others at high risk. This vaccination is relatively new; effective, and vitally important. (Pneumonia is a major cause of death among older people.)
Additional protection (against malaria, polio, meningitis, ete.) may be necessary if you plan to travel outside the US. Contact your state's health department for instructions appropriate to your destination.
Top US Diagnostic Clinics: A day at a diagnostic clinic can be as useful as a day with a business consultant who knows the right questions to ask. The clinics use the latest techniques to screen and test for a broad spectrum of problems and potential problems. At the end, a physician gives the patient a thorough review of the results. Typical follow-up: Individuals are motivated to stop smoking, change their diet, or lose a few pounds. Many return for another run-through of the tests to see the improved results.
Twelve top US. clinics for diagnostic physicals:
Vincent Astor Diagnostic Service, New York Hospital, Cornell Medical Center, 525 E. 68 St., New York 10021, 212-472-5753. Appointment: Two weeks in advance. Exam: Three to four hours.
Cleveland Clinic, 9500 Euclid Ave., Cleveland 44106, 216-444-2200. Appointment: Six to eight weeks' notice. Exam: One day, or two half days.
Executive Health Examiners, 777 Third Ave., New York 10017, 212-486-8900. Branch facilities in Stamford, CT, Morristown, NJ, with affiliates in 500 cities. Appointment: Two weeks' notice. Exam: Two to three hours.
Greenbriar Clinic, White Sulphur Springs, WV 24986,304-536-1110. Appointment: One year in advance. Exam: Two to three days.
Lahey Clinic, 605 Commonwealth Ave., Boston 02159, 617-261-2200. Appointment:
Four to six weeks' notice. Exam: One to three days.
Life Extension Institute, 1185 Ave. of the Americas, New York 10036, 212-575-8300. Institute has over 800 affiliates. Appointment:
A few days' notice.
Mayo Clinic, 200 S.W. First St., Rochester, MN 55901, 507-282-2511. Appointment: One year's notice. Exam: One day.
Ochsner Clinic, 1514 Jefferson Highway, New Orleans 70121, 504-834-7070. Exam:
Three days to one week.
Palo Alto Clinic: 300 Homer Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301, 415-321-4121. Appointment: Four weeks' notice. Exam: One day.
Scott-White Clinic, Scott-White Hospital, Temple, TX 76501,817-774-2111. Appointment:
Three weeks' notice. Exam: Two days.
Scripps Clinic, 10666 N. Torrey Pines Rd., LaJolla, CA 92037, 714-455-9100. Appointment: Two to three weeks' notice. Exam: Two days.
Strang Clinic, 320 E. 15 St., New York 10003, 212-475-6066. Appointment: Two weeks' notice. Exam: One day.
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