Hair loss, which is also called alopecia, is the partial or complete absence of hair from areas of the body where it normally grows. Alopecia is caused by an immune system disorder where the body gets confused and attacks itself. The condition occurs when white blood cells attack the cells in hair follicles, causing them to shrink and dramatically slow down hair production. It is unknown precisely what causes the body’s immune system to target hair follicles in this way.
Alopecia is believed to be an inherited condition, so if one of your family members has it, there is a higher probability you may eventually develop symptoms as well. You’re particularly at risk if any type of autoimmune disease runs in your family such as atopy, a disorder characterized by a tendency to be hyperallergic, thyroiditis, and vitiligo.
Hair Loss Facts
- Thyroid disease , anemia , protein deficiency, chemotherapy , and low vitamin levels may cause hair loss.
- Hair loss from breakage of the hair shaft is different from hair loss due to decreased hair growth.
- Androgenetic hair loss is seen in both men and women but is more dramatic in men.
- Alopecia areata is a form of hair loss produced by the autoimmune destruction of hair follicles in localized areas of skin.
- Hair loss is a very common condition and affects most people at some time in their lives.
- Medications indicated for hair regrowth include minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia).
- Prevention of hair loss includes good hair hygiene, regular shampooing, and good nutrition.
- Medical health screening for hair loss may include blood tests such as complete blood count (CBC ), iron level, vitamin B, thyroid function tests (TFT), and a biopsy of the scalp.
What Causes Hair Loss?
Several factors may influence hair loss. Some of the more common ones include:
- Hormones, such as abnormal levels of androgens (male hormones normally produced by both men and women).
- Genes, from both male and female parents, may influence a person’s predisposition to male or female pattern baldness.
- Stress, illness, and childbirth can cause temporary hair loss. Ringworm caused by a fungal infection can also cause hair loss.
- Drugs, including chemotherapy drugs used in cancer treatment , blood thinners , beta-adrenergic blockers used to control blood pressure , and birth control pills , can cause temporary hair loss.
- Burns, injuries, and X-rays can cause temporary hair loss. In such cases, normal hair growth usually returns once the injury heals unless a scar is produced. Then, hair will never regrow.
- Cosmetic procedures, such as shampooing too often, perms, bleaching, and dyeing hair can contribute to overall hair thinning by making hair weak and brittle. Tight braiding, using rollers or hot curlers, and running hair picks through tight curls can also damage and break hair. However, these procedures don’t cause baldness. In most instances hair grows back normally if the source of the problem is removed. Still, severe damage to the hair or scalp sometimes causes permanent bald patches.
- Medical conditions including thyroid disease, lupus, diabetes , iron deficiency anemia, eating disorders , and anemia can cause hair loss. Most times, when the underlying condition is treated, the hair will return unless there is scarring as in some forms of lupus, lichen planus or follicular disorders.
- Diet can affect hair loss. A low- protein diet or severely calorie-restricted diet can also cause temporary hair loss.
What Are The Signs Of Hair Loss?
Signs of hair loss and hair loss conditions vary between men, women and children. However, people of any age or sex may notice more hair collecting in their hairbrush or in the shower drain. The signs of hair loss and hair conditions in men may include:
- Thinning hair on the scalp.
- A receding hairline.
- A horseshoe-shaped pattern that leaves the crown of the head exposed.
Signs of hair loss and hair conditions in women may include General hair thinning, especially at the crown of the head. Signs of hair loss and hair conditions in children and young adults may include:
- Sudden loss of patches of hair.
- Complete loss of all hair on the body.
- Patches of broken hairs and incomplete hair loss on the scalp and/or eyebrows.
Call your doctor about hair loss if:
- You or your child have a sudden loss of patches of hair.
- Your child has patches of broken hairs and incomplete hair loss on the scalp and/or eyebrows.
- Your child is rubbing or pulling out his or her hair.
- You or your child suffer an unexplained loss of hair on any part of the body.
Prevention Of Hair Loss
To prevent hair damage that may cause hair loss, follow these tips:
- Go natural: Leave your hair its natural color and texture. If that is not an option for you, give hair time to recover between blowouts and chemical treatments.
- Choose products wisely: Use a basic shampoo designed for your hair type. When curling your hair, choose less-damaging sponge rollers. Also, brush using a moderately stiff, natural-bristle brush, which is less likely to tear your hair.
- Brush properly: Proper hair brushing can do as much for the condition of your hair as any over-the-counter product. Using a proper brush, apply full strokes from the scalp to the tips of your hair to distribute the hair’s natural oil. Be gentle, and avoid brushing your hair when wet, when it is especially fragile. It is best to use a comb on wet hair.