Plica Polonica (syn Plica Neuropathica) is a rare condition first described in Poland in 1884 by Dr LePage in which hair-shafts become intertwined and matted (often irreversibly).
Symptoms may also include an inflamed scalp with bad odour.
Plica (or Plicas) may be associated with damage to sections of the cuticle (the hair-shaft’s tough protective outer layer) hereby exposing a moist sticky cortex to which other similarly effected hair shafts adhere. The condition is mildly odiferous and capable of causing adhesion and matting of hair-shafts.
Hair-shafts consist of a Cuticle (a multi-layered ‘protective’ outer zone) and a Cortex containing elongated cells responsible for any natural curl, its resilience and elasticity.
This condition, which usually affects adults, is usually associated with damaged cuticle cells which expose the Cortex.
Behavioural factors e.g. neglect or lack of regular combing (especially damaged hair-shafts as already explained) may cause matting.
Chemical exposures e.g. bleaching /colouring, permanent waving, relaxing, hair fixing gels and certain detergents. Certain chemicals used routinely in hairdressing procedures i.e. Hydrogen peroxide, ammonium thiolglycollate, sodium hydroxide, bleaching powders (alkalis) etc, may damage the protein rich Cuticle causing exudation of the sticky cortical moisture from which hair-shafts adhere together and matt.
Cationic detergents may form liquid crystals which in combination with the micelles (which occur in all surfactant and water solutions) damage the cuticle structure.
Physical factors capable of initiating hair shaft damage with potential tangling and or matting:
Mechanical interaction: over stretching the hair when wet or in a liquid medium can increase vulnerability to Cuticle and Cortical damage. The employment of metal rings or glues by which donor hair-shafts are attached to natural hair-shafts (i.e. extensions procedures) may cause minor injuries which exacerbate with time.
Cuticle damage associated with any procedure may cause immediate disruption of its surface cell structure causing tangles and snagging during routine grooming.
Vulnerability usually increases with long or chemically processed hair-shafts.
Temperature: exposure to high temperature processing devices e.g. steamers, hair driers, and thermal styling appliances which vaporise residual moisture within the Cuticle and Cortex causing the destructive Bubble Hair and Trichorrhexis Nodosa.
Electrostatic forces; hair-shafts may become di-electrically charged. The outer layers of Cuticle cells which circumvent the hair-shaft form rough keratinised imbricated ‘scales’. The imbrications point from proximal (neo scalp) to distal (free) end. A hair-shaft rubbed towards its root may acquire a positive charge. Rubbing towards it free end may invoke a negative charge. Different charges may contribute to matting.
Parasitic infestation; Plica has long been associated with pediculus capitis infestation.
Plicas may therefore be triggered by single or multi-factorial manifestations in which aetiological factors as stated herein may interfere with the outer and subsequently inner physiology of the hair shaft causing its weakness and vulnerability to injury / deformity and severance.
Plicas may affect the entire scalp hair or parts thereof. The condition is currently considered a result of external components but not disease. The treatment in severe cases which exclude resolution by combing is to remove the Plica by cutting and avoid future triggering factors.
Treatment usually involves cutting the effected hair – Sorry !
Please also see: pediculus capitis humanis
© 2004 – B.Stevens Contact the author