Hair loss can strike anywhere, whether it’s your scalp or your complete body. It can be the result of hormonal changes, heredity, medical conditions or medications. Anyone — women, men, and children — can experience hair loss.
Alopecia typically refers to extreme hair loss from your scalp. Hereditary hair loss with age is the most prevalent cause of baldness. Some individuals rather let their baldness run its course untreated and do bother to hide it from people. Others may enclose it up with hairstyles, hats, scarves or makeup. And still, others choose one of the treatments viable to prevent further hair loss and to restore growth.
Before pursuing hair loss treatment, talk with your doctor about the cause of the hair loss and the best treatment options.
- Pictures showing male-pattern baldness
- Male-pattern baldness
- Photograph showing female-pattern baldness
- Female-pattern baldness
- Pictures showing patchy hair loss (alopecia areata)
- Patchy hair loss (alopecia areata)
- Pictures showing traction alopecia
- Traction alopecia
- Hair loss may appear in several different ways, based on what’s causing it. It can develop suddenly or over an extended period affecting only just your scalp or your whole body. Some kinds of hair loss are passing, and others are long term.
Signs and indications of hair loss may include:
- Gradual thinning on top of the head. This is the most popular type of hair loss, affecting both men and females as they age. In men, hair often begins to decline from the forehead in a line that mirrors the letter M. Women usually maintained the hairline on the forehead but have a broad loss across head’s hair.
- Patchy or circular bald spots. Some people have smooth, coin-sized bald spots. This type of hair loss usually impacts just the scalp, but it occasionally also happens in beards or eyebrows. In some situations, your skin may show signs of itchiness or pain before the hair falls out.
- Abrupt loss of hair. A physical or emotional shock can produce hair to loosen. Handfuls of hair may break loose when combing or washing your hair or even after gentle tugging. This kind of hair loss typically forms overall hair thinning and not necessarily bald patches.
- Full-body hair loss. The loss of hair throughout the entire. These types of conditions and medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer, can result in the loss of hair all over your body. The hair usually grows back.
- Patches of scaling that cover the entirety of the scalp. This is a symptom of ringworm. It can be accompanied by the damaged hair, swelling, redness, and, at times, puss-like oozing.
When Should You See a Physician
You should visit your doctor if you or a family member is suffering from the distressed caused hair loss and want to proceed with a treatment plan. Also, talk to your physician if you discern sudden or patchy hair loss or more than normal hair loss when brushing, combing or washing your child’s hair. Immediate hair loss can indicate an underlying medical condition that necessitates treatment.
Most people ordinarily shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. This typically doesn’t produce noticeable thinning of scalp hair due to new hair growing in at the same time. Hair loss happens when this cycle of hair growth and molting is interrupted or when the hair follicle is damaged and replaced with scar tissue.
The precise cause of hair loss may not be completely understood, but it’s ordinarily related to one or more of the following factors:
- Family history (heredity)
- Hormonal changes
- Medical conditions
- The most prevalent cause of hair loss is a hereditary condition described as male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness. It normally occurs slowly and in predictable patterns — a declining hairline that recedes further and further back into the center of the head and bald spots in men and scattered loss hair in women.
Heredity also impacts the age at which someone begins to lose hair, the speed of hair loss and the amount of baldness. Pattern baldness is most characteristic in men and can start as early as puberty. This type of hair loss may consist of both hairs miniaturization (hair becomes soft, fine and short) and thinning.
Hormonal changes and medical conditions
A mixture of conditions can produce hair loss, including:
Hormonal fluctuations. Hormonal variations and imbalances can produce temporary hair loss. This can be created by pregnancy, childbirth or the onset of menopause. Hormone levels are also impacted by the thyroid gland so that thyroid problems can produce hair loss.
Patchy hair loss. This type of nonscarring hair loss is called alopecia areata (al-o-PEE-she-uh are-A-tuh). It transpires when the body’s immune system strikes hair follicles — producing sudden hair loss that forms rounding and smooth bald patches on the skin.
Scalp infections. Infections, such as ringworm, can penetrate the hair and skin of your scalp, leading to scaly patches and hair loss. Once infections are treated, hair generally grows back.
Other skin disorders. Diseases that cause scarring alopecia may result in a permanent loss at the scarred areas. These conditions include lichen planus, some types of lupus and sarcoidosis.
Hair-pulling disorder. This condition also called trichotillomania (trick-o-til-o-MAY-nee-uh), produces people to have an overwhelming desire to pull out their hair, regardless if it’s from the scalp, the eyebrows or other regions of the body.
Hair loss can be produced by drugs used for arthritis, depression, cancer, heart problems, high blood pressure and birth control. Consumption of too much vitamin A may produce hair loss as well.
Other causes of hair loss
Hair loss can also result from:
Radiation therapy in the head area. The hair may not grow back at the same rate before, and the thickness may be impacted resulting in bald patches.
A trigger event. Many people encounter a widespread thinning of hair several months after an emotional or physical shock. This kind is of hair loss is mostly temporary. Trigger events can include excessive or sudden weight loss, surgery, a high fever, or death of a family member.
Particular hairstyles and treatments. Excessive hairstyling or hairstyles that stretch your hair tight, such as pigtails or cornrows, can produce traction alopecia. Hot oil hair treatments and perms can trigger swelling or inflammation of hair follicles that proceeds to hair loss. If scarring occurs, hair loss can be permanent.
Some factors can increase your risk of hair loss, including:
- Family history
- Poor nutrition
- Certain pathological conditions, such as lupus or diabetes.
These tips may help you avoid preventable types of hair loss:
Eat a nutritionally balanced diet.
Avoid tight hairstyles, such as braids, buns or ponytails.
Avoid compulsively, rubbing twisting, or pulling your hair.
Treat your hair smoothly when brushing and washing. A wide-toothed comb may help stop pulling out hair.
Do not use harsh treatments such as hot rollers, curling irons, hot oil treatments and permanents.
Before making a diagnosis, your physician will possibly give you a physical exam and inquire about your medical history and family history. He or she may also conduct tests, such as the following:
Blood test. This may assist in uncovering medical requirements linked to hair loss, such as thyroid disease.
Pull test. Your doctor gently pulls several dozen hairs to see how many come out. This helps delimit the stage of the shedding process.
Scalp biopsy. Your physician scrapes specimens from the skin, or a few hairs are taken from the scalp to measure the hair roots. This may assist in determining whether an infection is triggering hair loss.
Light microscopy. Your physician utilizes a special device to evaluate hairs trimmed at their bases. Microscopy helps reveal potential disorders of the hair shaft.
Effective treatments for some varieties of hair loss are accessible to be used. But some hair loss is permanent. Some conditions, such as patchy alopecia, may not require treatment and regrow within a year.
Treatments for hair loss comprise of surgery, medications, laser therapy, and hairpieces or wigs. Your physician may recommend a combination of these approaches to get the best outcomes.
The goals of treatment are to promote hair growth, slow hair loss or hide hair loss.
If your hair loss is produced by an underlying disease, treatment for that disease will be required. This may encompass medication to reduce swelling and contain your immune system, such as prednisone. If a particular medication is producing the hair loss, your physician may recommend you to stop using it for at least three months.
Drugs are available to treat pattern baldness. Two medications authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hair loss are:
Minoxidil (Rogaine). Minoxidil is an over-the-counter foam or liquid that you massage into your scalp two times a day to grow hair and to stop further hair loss. It can be applied by women and men. With this therapy option, some people experience hair regrowth or a slower rate of hair loss or both. The impact typically occurs at 16 weeks, and you are required to keep applying the medication to retain benefits.
Potential side effects include scalp irritation, unwanted hair growth on the adjacent skin of the face and hands, and rapid heart rate (tachycardia).
Finasteride (Propecia). This prescription drug is given only to men. It’s taken daily in pill form. Many men taking finasteride encounter a slowing of hair loss, and some may exhibit some additional hair growth. You must keep taking it to retain benefits.
Rare side effects of finasteride include reduced sex drive and sexual function and an enlarged risk of prostate cancer. Women who are or may be pregnant should avoid coming into physical contact with broken or crushed tablets.
In the most prevalent type of permanent hair loss, only the top of the head is impacted. Hair transplant or restoration operations can retain the most of the hair you have left.
During this procedure, your physician removes tiny plugs of skin, each carrying a few hairs, from the back or sides of your scalp. He or she then implants the plugs into the bald parts of your scalp. You may be requested to take a hair loss medication prior and after surgery to improve results.
Surgical procedures to treat baldness are expensive and can be painful. Possible risks include infection and scarring.
Wigs and hairpieces
You may want to wear a hairpiece or a wig as an option rather than undergo medical treatment – specifically if you don’t respond to treatment. It can be worn to cover permanent or temporary hair loss. Quality, natural-looking wigs, and hairpieces are through a variety of vendors.
If a medical condition primarily causes your hair loss, the cost of a wig may be covered by insurance. You’ll need a prescription for the wig from your doctor.
Some studies report that the patchy hair loss caused by alopecia areata may be helped by lavender oil combined with oils from thyme, rosemary and cedar wood. Further study is needed.
Getting Ready for your appointment
You’re likely first to bring your questions for your doctor to answer. He or she may refer you to a physician who specializes in the treatment of skin problems (dermatologist).
What you can do to help.
Think about those key personal components, including any major stresses or recent life changes that may cause you anxiety
Make a list of all medicines, vitamins, and supplements that you’re using.
Provide this information to your doctor
Your time with your doctor will likely be concise, so preparing a list of questions will aid you to get the most out of the time you have together. List your questions from most significant to least important just in case you don’t have enough time. For hair loss, some essential questions to ask your doctor include:
- Should I see a specialist? What will that expense, and will my insurance cover seeing a specialist?
- Are there any guidelines that I need to follow to help alleviate hair loss?
- Are there other potential causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What is likely generating my symptoms or condition?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- Will my hair grow back? How long will it take?
- What is the best course of action?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Do you have any pamphlets or other relevant material that I can take home with me?
- Are there a generic options to the medication you’re prescribing me?
What should I expect from your Physician
Your physician is likely to ask you some questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your physician may inquire the following:
Have you had a comparable problem in the past?
What medications or supplements do you take routinely?
Have you noticed poor hair growth? Hair breakage? Hair shedding?
Has your hair loss been continuous or occasional?
When did you first start experiencing hair loss?
Has your hair loss been patchy or overall?
Has any immediate family members experienced hair loss?
What, if anything, appears to worsen your hair loss?
What, if anything, seems to improve your hair loss?