Hair loss doesn’t just make a change on your scalp. It can impact many different psycho-social aspects of your life. Hair loss can also be secondary to a variety of factors. It can be the result of hormonal changes, medical conditions, hereditary between generations and medications. Men, women and children can all experience hair loss at some point in their lives.
When people talk about baldness, they are generally talking about the thinning of hair or excessive hair loss from the scalp. Hereditary patterned hair loss in men and women is the most common cause of baldness. When it comes to how people cope with their baldness, there are generally four types of reactions:
- No hair loss treatment at all
- An attempt to cover it up through a combination of hairstyles, hats, makeup, wigs and hair systems
- Undergoing medical treatment to prevent further hair loss
- Restore the balding areas through a hair transplant procedure
Symptoms of Hair Loss
The appearance of hair loss happens in different ways. The rate in which it appears really depends on what is causing the hair loss. Plus, the hair loss is sometimes only on the scalp while other hair loss can affect the entire body. The type of hair loss also determines if it is temporary or permanent.
Some of the more common symptoms of hair loss include:
- Patterned hair loss – Patterned baldness hair loss typically is very gradual and begins in the front, top or crown areas of the scalp. In general, this is the most common type of hair loss and is seen in both men and women as they age. Men often see their hair start to recede from the forehead in a pattern that resembles the letter “M” as the hair recedes on the corners. Some men start seeing thinning hair only on the crown and at times the entire top of scalp becomes thinner over time. Most women keep the hairline on the forehead but they do experience a broadening of the part and thinning of the hair on top. Hair loss in men is due to a combination of genetics and the male hormone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The cause of female pattern hair loss is not quite clear but genetics always plays a big role in female hair loss. Widely used treatments for patterned hair loss include minoxidil, finasteride and hair transplant surgery.
- Circular or patchy bald spots – Depending on the person, some people have bald spots that are smooth and coin-sized. This is hair loss that is usually only found on the scalp but it can also occur in beards or eyebrows. The common cause for patchy hair loss is autoimmune or self-inflicting hair pulling conditions.
- Sudden loss of hair – There are times when a physical or emotional shock causes the hair to loosen. This condition is also seen after surgeries including a hair transplant and is called shock loss. Patients may experience handfuls of hair falling out while combing or washing their hair. This can even happen after gentle tugging. The sudden loss of the loose hair is usually reversible a few months after the stressful condition is removed.
- Full-body hair loss – There are some autoimmune conditions and medical treatments that can result in the overall loss of hair on the body. Alopecia Universalis and hair loss due to chemotherapy for cancer are some of the conditions that can cause the patient to experience overall hair loss.
Hair Loss Causes
On average, people will shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. This is nothing to worry about when it happens because there is no noticeable thinning of scalp hair since there is new hair growing in at the same time. In typical patterned hair loss, hair shafts become smaller with every new hair growth cycle to the point that the hair shafts become invisible. Hair loss occurs when the cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted for a variety of reasons.
Even with advances in medical technology, the exact cause of hair loss is not fully understood. It is normally related to one or more of the following factors:
- Heredity – This is the most common cause of hair loss and is the condition referred to earlier as male-pattern or female-pattern baldness. The hair loss usually happens in predictable patterns on a gradual basis. Some examples include a receding hairline, thinning hair in women and bald spots in men. Heredity also dictates the age at which patients begin to lose hair, their rate of hair loss and the overall extent of their baldness. It is most common in men and can involve both hair thinning and miniaturization.
- Male Hormone– As mentioned above, DHT which is a natural byproduct of testosterone causes hair loss in men who have the gene of male patterned hair loss. Elevation of testosterone, DHT and other male hormones can also cause patterned baldness in women who have the gene of male patterned baldness.
- Other hormonal Imbalances – These conditions can cause a person to suffer temporary hair loss. Some examples include pregnancy, childbirth and the onset of menopause. Thyroid problems may cause hair loss as hormone levels are either elevated or decreased.
- Autoimmune – One of the most common types of patchy hair loss is seen in Alopecia Areata (AA) and it happens when the immune system of the body attacks hair follicles. This results in sudden hair loss that doesn’t leave scars but it does leaves smooth and roundish bald patches on the skin. There is another type of immune reaction that can cause scarring at the cellular level which eventually leads to the destruction of hair follicles. These types of hair loss are classified as scarring or Cicatricial Alopecia (CA). There are a variety of skin conditions that can cause scarring alopecia and result in permanent loss at the affected areas and they include some types of lupus, lichen planus and sarcoidosis.
- Infections – Infections such as ringworm have been known to invade the hair as well as the skin of the scalp. This can lead to hair loss and scaly patches on scalp. The hair generally grows back once the infection is treated.
- Medications- Hair loss can be the result of some medications. Examples of hair loss that can be caused by medications include drugs used for cancer, depression, arthritis, heart problems, birth control and high blood pressure. Here you can find a list of common medications that can cause hair loss.
During a hair loss consultation, a patient will be asked about their family history of baldness, as it is one of the most important determinants of future hair loss in patients with patterned hair loss. This information, along with any known medical condition, will help determine what progression of hair loss the patient can expect. These steps can also help determine the best course of treatment for female patterned baldness.