DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My 21-year-old granddaughter’s hair is falling out. She doesn’t know what to do. She had blood work done, and the doctor told her that her cholesterol is high. I told her I would write to you for help. I appreciate any help you can give. – R.W.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a 25-year-old grandson who’s losing his hair. What causes this? – E.R.

ANSWER: We best start with some hairy facts. Nearly 90 percent of the hair on a person’s head is in the growing phase; 10 percent is in a resting stage and destined to soon fall out; 1 percent is in a transition from growing to resting. Every day, normally 100 to 150 hairs fall out. They’re in the resting stage. If you count all the hairs on your brush and comb in one day, you can see if your hair loss deviates from the norm.

A dermatologist can examine the fallen-out hair and determine which stage of its life it’s in. By finding the stage of the shed hair, the doctor can narrow the possible causes of hair loss.

As an example, in the resting phase, a sudden loss of more than 150 hairs in a day can be due to drugs, dieting, thyroid gland abnormalities, surgery in the near past, a recent illness with high fever and pregnancy. This kind of hair loss almost always is restored in a reasonable time span.

Another common cause of hair loss is sensitivity to male hormones. Genes determine at what age it happens. They can cause it to fall out at young ages. It happens to women too. Women make male hormones. In men, the loss begins at the temples and the crown of the head. In women, the hair loss is diffuse. This kind of hair loss might respond to treatment with minoxidil, which can be purchased without a prescription. Propecia is an oral tablet that’s designed for men’s use for male pattern baldness.

If the dermatologist cannot find a treatable cause of hair loss – and that takes a bit of sleuthing – hair transplants are always a possibility.

I would wager that the young woman’s hair loss is the kind due to excessive loss of resting hairs. This is the kind of loss that self-corrects. Her cholesterol has nothing to do with her hair loss. The young man’s is more likely due to sensitivity to male hormones.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 55-year-old male. Due to lightheadedness and shortness of breath, I had a 24-hour Holter monitor recording of my heartbeat. To my surprise, a couple of days later, I had a pacemaker implanted. I had an AV block. No one can tell me why. No one expresses great concern.

Since 1999, I had three hospitalizations for pancreatitis. Is there any connection between the two? What can I do to live the next 30 years (my goal)? – T.F.

ANSWER: There’s no connection between pancreatitis and your current AV block. As far as your heart is concerned, you should make it for 30 more years.

“AV (atrioventricular) block” means there is a roadblock in the transmission of the electric signal generated in the heart’s pacemaker from its position in the right atrium (the upper right heart chamber) to the ventricles, the lower heart pumping chambers. The ventricles still beat, but they beat so slowly that people often feel dizzy, become short of breath and can faint.

The artificial pacemaker that you now have takes over for the heart’s natural pacemaker, and you should have no further trouble. You might need to have the batteries changed, but that’s about all you face as far as the AV block goes.

Why did it happen? It might be due to a mysterious degeneration of the heart’s electric system. Partially blocked heart arteries can be responsible. Many times, the cause is never found. The treatment always works.

Heartbeat abnormalities are common and range from atrial fibrillation to lethal ventricular fibrillation. The booklet on heartbeats explains the more usual heartbeat problems. To order a copy, write: Dr. Donohue – No. 107, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 328536475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.


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