Adults agonize over the loss of their hair. Imagine how a child feels if they suddenly start losing their hair but no one is sure why. Loose anagen syndrome is a condition where hair on the head in the growth phase (anagen) is easily pulled or plucked out due to an error in the hair’s growth structure. Children are most often affected. The hair typically remains thin and only grows in length to the nape of the neck.
Who is affected:
Loose anagen syndrome is most often diagnosed in children between the ages of two and five who have blond hair though it has also been found in those with dark hair. The incidence is greater in females than males and has only been reported in Caucasians. Parents often bring their children to see a doctor because they observe that their child’s hair has thinned, doesn’t seem to need haircuts and that the hair appears dull and unmanageable. Clumps of hair may have painlessly come out during rough play or even from the traction of wearing the hair in a ponytail.
The inner root sheath normally develops during the anagen phase of a hair’s growth cycle and is believed to be responsible for anchoring the hair to the head. Faulty structural development leads to deformed hair shafts, which do not attach properly and cause the hair to having shorter growth lengths. Children affected with loose anagen syndrome are otherwise healthy without nutritional deficits or other medical problems.
Loose anagen syndrome can be confused for alopecia areata or trichotillomania so examination by a skilled dermatologist is needed. Additionally, other medical conditions such as anemia, thyroid disease or medication caused hair loss needs to be investigated. During an examination, the doctor will pull out a few strands of hair and look at them under a microscope. Hair affected with loose anagen syndrome will have a deformed bulb and lack both an inner and outer root sheath.
There is no medical treatment for loose anagen syndrome though the problem often improves as the child enters their teen years and adulthood. Some helpful measures to reduce hair loss are to treat hair gently during handling or washing and avoid pulling the hair back with rubber bands by using headbands instead. Although the hair loss is not medically a cause for alarm, it is important that parents and children receive reassurance and emotional support.
A forum on bravekids.org has posts from many parents describing their children’s situation with loose anagen syndrome. Some people post ideas that they feel have helped with hair re-growth such as certain shampoos or nutritional supplements or they share how uncomfortable it is when people stare or ask if they have been treated for cancer. Forums such as these provide an opportunity for parents and young people with this uncommon condition to find each other.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles