Alopecia is the partial or complete absence of hair from areas of the body where it normally grows (aka baldness). Traction Alopecia is hair loss that’s caused by hair repeatedly pulled too tightly. Pulling on the hair repeatedly loosens the hair shaft in its follicle. You can develop this condition if you often wear your hair in a tight ponytail, bun, hair extensions/weaves, hair often up in rollers overnight, dreadlocks, or braids (increased risk if chemicals or heat is used on your hair).
People with very long hair can also get Traction Alopecia due to the weight of the hair pulling on the scalp.
This condition is common in African-American women, although it can affect people of any ethnicity. It occurs more frequently among people in professions that tend to put their hair up in a tight bun, such as medical professionals, ballerinas, and athletes.
Initially, Traction Alopecia might present as little bumps on your scalp that look like pimples. As the condition progresses, the main symptom is missing and broken hairs. The hairs along the front and sides of your scalp are most often affected. However, you may also notice hair loss on other areas of your scalp, depending on your hairstyle.
The hair follicles can eventually become so damaged and scarred that they can’t produce new hair.
In other types of hair loss, the hair loss occurs in patches all over the scalp or diffuse thinning in parts of the scalp. In Traction Alopecia, usually just the hair that’s been pulled is affected.
In addition to hair loss, traction alopecia can also cause: scalp itching/scaling/redness/soreness, bumps, and pus-filled blisters on the scalp.
Although the condition can affect people of any age, it’s more likely to happen as you get older because your hair becomes more damaged the longer you pull on it.
The main treatment for Traction Alopecia is to change your hairstyle. Avoid wearing your hair in a tight style, especially overnight. Avoid pulling your hair up into a tight ponytail or bun. If you choose to wear it in that style be sure to loosen the style.
If your hair is very long, trim it. Minimize the use of chemicals and heat, which can damage your hair.
In closing, Traction Alopecia can be reversed to some degree if the condition is diagnosed early and treated. However, if treatment is not initiated early enough and/or you continue styling your hair in the various damaging styles mentioned earlier, then the hair loss can become permanent.
If you're concerned about your hair and feel that you might have Traction Alopecia, you should schedule an appointment with a hair specialist physician to discuss the treatment options available.