Hair loss is medically known as alopecia. Everyone loses hair. It is normal to lose about 50 to 100 strands of hair every day. Below please find a short description of the different patterns of hairloss that we most commonly see and treat.
- Hereditary Hair loss: The most common cause of hairloss is a medical condition called hereditary hair loss. About 80 million men and women in the United States have this type of hairloss. Hereditary hairloss may also be known as male-pattern hairloss, female-pattern hairloss or androgenetic alopecia. When men have hereditary hair loss, they often develop a receding hairline. Many men see bald patches, especially on the top of the head. Women, on the other hand, tend to keep their hairline. They see diffuse noticeably thinning hair. The first sign of hair loss for many women is a widening part. In rare cases, men see noticeably thinning hair. And in rare cases, women can see a receding hairline or bald patches.
- Alopecia areata: Researchers believe that this is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune means the body attacks itself. In this case, the body attacks its own hair. This causes smooth, round patches of hair loss on the scalp and other areas of the body. People with alopecia areata are often in excellent health. Most people see their hair re-grow. Dermatologists treat people with this disorder to help the hair re-grow more quickly usually with injectable corticosteroids.
- Cicatricial (scarring) alopecia: This rare disease develops in otherwise healthy people. The disease destroys a person’s hair follicles. Scar tissue forms where the follicles once were, so the hair cannot re-grow. Treatment tries to stop the inflammation, which destroys the hair follicles.
- Central centrifugal cicatricial (scarring) alopecia: This type of hair loss occurs most often in women of African descent. It begins in the center of the scalp. As it progresses, the hair loss radiates out from the center of the scalp. The affected scalp becomes smooth and shiny. The hair loss can be very slow or rapid. When hair loss occurs quickly, the person may have tingling, burning, pain, or itching on the scalp. Treatment may help the hair re-grow if scarring has not occurred.
There are also a number of medical conditions that may cause hair loss. Typically, when a patient comes to the Dermatologist with hair loss, extensive bloodworm is done to rule out systemic conditions. About 30 diseases, including thyroid disease and anemia, cause hair loss. By treating the disease, hair loss is often stopped or reversed. In addition, significant hair loss can occur after an illness. A major surgery, high fever, severe infection, or even the flu can cause hair loss. Your dermatologist may refer to this type of hair loss as a telogen effluvium. Moreover, some cancer treatments including radiation therapy and chemotherapy can cause hair loss. This hair loss is often temporary, but it can cause great emotional and psychological distress. Infections of the skin like ring work of the scalp (tinea capitis) may also cause hair loss. This disease is contagious and common in children. Without effective treatment, ringworm can cause balding. Finally. psychological conditions like Trichotillomania may result in a self induced form of hairloss. Patients with this condition repeatedly pull out their own hair. They often feel a constant urge to pull out the hair on the scalp. Some sufferers say they feel compelled to pull out their eyelashes, nose hairs, eyebrows, and other hairs on their body.
Other triggers for hair loss include:
- Giving birth: After giving birth, some women have noticeable hair loss. Falling estrogen levels cause this type of hair loss. The hair loss is temporary. In a few months, women see their hair re-grow.
- Menopause: Hair loss is common during menopause. This loss is often temporary. Hair re-grows with time. If a woman is 40 years of age or older, she should not expect her hair to have the fullness that it did when she was younger.
- Stress: Experiencing a traumatic event (e.g., death of a loved one or divorce) can cause hair loss.
- Weight loss: Some people see hair loss after losing more than 15 pounds. The hair loss often appears 3 to 6 months after losing the weight. This hair loss is common. The hair re-grows without help.
- Vitamin A: Too much vitamin A can cause hair loss. People can get too much of this vitamin through vitamin supplements or medicines. Once the body stops getting too much vitamin A, normal hair growth resumes.
- Protein: When the body does not get enough protein, it rations the protein it does get. One way the body can ration protein is to shut down hair growth. About 2 to 3 months after a person does not eat enough protein, you can see the hair loss. Eating more protein will stop the hair loss. Meats, eggs, and fish are good sources of protein. Vegetarians can get more protein by adding nuts, seeds, and beans to their diet.
- Iron: Not getting enough iron can lead to hair loss. Good vegetarian sources of iron are iron-fortified cereals, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, white beans, lentils, and spinach. Clams, oysters, and organ meats top the list of good animal sources of iron.
- Eating disorder: When a person has an eating disorder, hair loss is common. Anorexia (not eating enough) and bulimia (vomiting after eating) can cause hair loss.
- Medications including blood thinners, high-dose vitamin A, medicines that treat arthritis, depression, gout, heart problems, and high blood pressure, birth control, and steroids taken to improve athletic performance can cause hair loss.
There are a number of treatment options available for hairloss. What is prescribed is dependent on the type of hairloss a patient is experiencing. The treatment options vary widely from topical treatments, to oral medications, and finally surgical intervention. They include (most commonly) Minoxidil, Finasteride, Spironolactone, Iron supplementation, corticosteroids, and hair transplantation.