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Hair Loss 101: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention
Did you know that most people lose between 50 and 100 hairs every day? That seems like a lot, but most people don’t notice a change in their hair thickness because usually, new hairs are constantly growing to replace them. However, hair loss and thinning occur when the body does not produce enough new hair to replace what falls out.
Hair loss, also called alopecia, can cause distress, especially when you aren’t sure what’s causing it. In this article, we’ll look at why hair falls out, what you can do to prevent and treat it, and proper hair care techniques to keep your mane looking magnificent.
Common hair loss symptoms
Alopecia can happen on just the head or on the entire body. It can be temporary or permanent and, depending upon the cause, it can happen gradually or suddenly.
Gradual thinning on the top of the head, usually what we refer to as baldness, is common in both men and women. In most cases, baldness is simply caused by age. In men, it usually begins with a receding hairline along the forehead. In women, it often begins as a gradual widening where they part their hair or as thinning around the crown of the scalp.
Another common symptom of hair thinning is circular, patchy bald spots. Often, this kind of loss is accompanied by itchiness. Some types of hair loss can happen all over the body, so patients may notice thinning of their eyelashes, less hair on their arms, and fewer hairs on their legs. Some medical conditions and treatments, such as cancer and radiation therapy, can cause this full-body hair loss during the course of the illness and treatment.
Traumatic and stressful events can cause temporary overall thinning, so some people may notice handfuls of hair falling out when they brush their hair or wash it. In most cases, the hair will regrow on its own after the event. However, you should schedule an appointment right away if you notice sudden hair loss in your child, as it could be a sign of an underlying illness.
What causes hair loss?
There are several reasons why people lose their hair, including:
Androgenic alopecia, also called male-pattern and female-pattern baldness, is the most common cause of hair loss, and it is hereditary. Inherited genes cause the hair follicles to shrink and eventually stop growing. This type of baldness occurs in a predictable way and usually happens gradually with age. Signs of androgenic alopecia are a receding hairline in men and a thinning around the hair part or crown in women.
2. Hormonal fluctuations
Changes in hormones can cause temporary hair thinning. Women experience major periods of hormone fluctuations during pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause that can cause hair loss. Also, conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) cause hormonal imbalances that may cause their hair to fall out.
3. Medical conditions
Some medical conditions, such as the immune system disorder alopecia areata and infections like ringworm, can cause patchy hair loss all over the body. Psoriasis on the scalp can also cause temporary thinning until the flare-up heals.
4. Medical treatments
Some prescription medications for conditions ranging from depression to thyroid disorders can cause hair thinning as a side effect.
5. Radiation and chemotherapy
Cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, may cause all over hair loss in some patients. For many people, losing their hair during treatment can be one of the more traumatic parts of their cancer battle. Using a cooling cap before, during, and after treatment can help prevent hair loss.
6. Stress or trauma
Sudden stressful or traumatic events, ranging from a major surgery to the loss of a loved one, can cause the hair follicles to loosen. When brushing or washing the hair, patients may experience hair falling out in handfuls. In most cases, treatment isn’t necessary as the hair grows back on its own in the months after the event.
7. Hairstyles and treatments
Wearing hairstyles that pull at the scalp, such as tight ponytails or cornrows, can cause traction alopecia. Luckily, this kind of loss is reversible if you stop wearing these hairstyles. Sometimes, hair treatments like permanents for curls, relaxers, and hot oil treatments can cause damage to the hair and follicle. As long as the treatment doesn’t cause scarring on the scalp, the hair should grow back with gentler haircare.
Treatments for hair loss
Hair loss can be extremely distressing. The good news? There are several treatment options that can help slow the loss and promote new hair growth. A few options are:
1. Minoxidil (Rogaine)
Minoxidil is a popular over-the-counter treatment for thinning hair. It’s available as a liquid, foam, or as an additive to shampoos. The medication speeds up your own hair growth and slows hair loss, but it can take several months of consistent use to see the benefits. Unfortunately, any hair growth you experience on minoxidil will go away if you stop using it.
2. Finasteride (Propecia)
Finasteride is a prescription hair loss pill for men. Like minoxidil, it slows hair thinning and speeds your natural hair growth. It also takes a few months before patients notice the effects, and any benefits cease if you stop using the medication. There is some risk of side effects, including a reduced sex drive and an increased risk of prostate cancer.
3. Hair transplant surgery
Because most male and female-pattern baldness affects the top of the scalp, hair transplant surgery is a promising treatment for many people. In this procedure, the physician will take small patches of hair from areas of the head with good growth and transplant them to bald spots.
4. Laser therapy
Research is still ongoing, but some preliminary results indicate that laser therapy may help stimulate hair growth in both men and women, without the use of prescription medications or surgery.
Preventing hair loss
Though it’s not possible to completely prevent most types of hair loss, there are several things that people can do to promote hair growth and maintain the health of their existing hair, including:
- Eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet
- Taking supplements, such as biotin, collagen, zinc, or iron – consult your dermatologist before beginning a supplement regimen for hair loss
- Protecting hair from UV damage – like your skin, hair can be damaged by excessive UV exposure
- Limit heat styling
- Choose loose hairstyles
- Use conditioner and detangler when brushing wet hair
- Avoid harsh treatments like relaxers, permanents, and hot oil treatments
Struggling with hair loss?
Hair loss is not a condition that you have to “just deal with.” The hair loss experts at Brentwood Dermatology are here to help diagnose the cause of your loss and find you the best treatment possible. Together, we can improve the health of your hair, so schedule an appointment today.
Do you have concerns about your hair health? Come see the healthy hair specialists at Brentwood Dermatology today. Give us a call at (615) 455-0046 to schedule an appointment.