Hair loss can be a temporary or permanent problem whether it occurs on scalp hair, beard, eyebrows, hands or legs. Apparently, losing your hair itself is not a life threat but can occur in healthy individuals. This post sets forth causes of the problem. What more? Learn more about why hair falls out plus on how certain illness and health problems can gradually lead to hair loss.
- Understanding loss of hair
- Why does hair loss occur – what causes hair loss
- Hereditary hair loss
- Is hair loss caused by thyroid disease?
- Diabetes and loss of hair
- Trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder)
- Hair loss caused by chemicals
- Other factors that lead to losing your hair or falling out
- Female hair loss causes and pattern
- Hair loss in men
- Summary on hair loss in men or women
Understanding loss of hair
Before looking into hair loss causes, read through to get a grip on hair loss basics and important medical terms used together.
When is losing hair normal?
If you notice clumps of countable hairs falling out in shower, that is normal. Men and women alike lose hair about 100 strands hair daily. Moreover, this number can slightly increase if you are used to shampooing or hair bands. And that should not be at least a reason to raise concern or worry.
When is it abnormal?
Whether specific hair loss causes is permanent or temporary, males and females can undergo excessive loss of hair in more or less similar patterns. Both sexes can experience hair falling out, thinning or patches being left out on scalp, chest, the beard, eyebrows or lashes, hands, legs, on pubis etc.)
Losing hair abnormally or excessively can be hereditary or caused by genetic reasons or as a result of using hair products.
Important information and definitions on loss of hair
Here are some other key points or descriptions that you need to know.
- Alopecia generally refers to excessive loss or abnormal falling out of hair
- Alopecia areata is total hair loss chraracterised by round or oval patches on scalp and other areas of hair growth including the beard (alopecia barbae) and eyebrows
- Alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis – both forms of alopecia areata – result to hairless across-the-scalp and entire scalp respectively
- Scarring alopecia results to scar tissue or destruction of hair follicles but is rare.
- Other forms of alopecia areata are diffuse alopecia areata and ophiasis alopecia
- Androgenetic alopecia also termed as pattern alopecia is the common hereditary loss of hair affecting males and females of all ages
- Hair thinning as type of loss of hair causes the hair shafts to become abnormally finer hence losing typical quality of hair
While male pattern (baldness) is signaled with a progressive receding hairline and a possible thinning, typical female pattern starts with hair thinning across the central area of the scalp.
Going on, a temporary problem of losing hair can appear to be permanent if incorrectly diagnosed, whereby women among the majority affected suffer more.
Psychological experiences due to losing hair can be detrimental just like a serious disease can cause damage to your body organs.
Males and females begin losing hair as early as 20 or 30 years. Typically, post-menopause female hair loss is more noticeable.
You may begin to start losing your eyelashes if you have eye dermatitis or Demodex folliculorum or eyelash mites especially with infestation.
Why does hair loss occur – what causes hair loss
Below are causes or reasons for losing hair in men or women.
Hereditary hair loss
To begin, statistics reveal that hereditary-pattern is the widespread way of losing hair. This pattern is usually attributed to ageing under the influence of genes and sometimes hormones.
When these factors combine (i.e. genes and hormones), “the normal cycle of hair growth changes, resulting in shorter, thinner or “miniaturized” hair.” [www.health.harvard.edu]
One can inherit gene responsible for hair thinning from either of your parents.
A typical symptom of this pattern is progressive thinning out of hair and eventually loss. In men, the symptom shows up at the temple and crown along the forehead. As the condition develops, some men remain with hair on either side of head and back of scalp.
In women, there is no receding hairline as it is the case in men. Even though, hair lost on top of head is somewhat of significant effect. This would result to an-X-mas tree depiction whereby the lower areas of the head is covered with more hair. Therefore, the scalp is better hidden.
Is hair loss caused by thyroid disease?
A thyroid disease means that your thyroid hormone level drops or rises. This interferes with natural growth and resting cycles of hair. If there is little hair that grows, thinning or balding can occur.
According to British Thyroid Foundation, severe prolonged hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are hair loss causes.
In addition to hair thinning or loss other symptoms of thyroid disease include:
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Dryness in skin or hair
- Change in mood such as anxiety
- Memory problems
- Lack of concentration
Diabetes and loss of hair
How does diabetes affect your hair growth?
There are 2 types – Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2. In fact more than 80 per cent of diabetes are Type 2 diabetes.
Both types of diabetes can interrupt hair growth cycle causing hair thinning. According to Healthline, people with diabetes itself can experience hair loss and the same individuals are more likely to get Alopecia areata.
Keep in mind that hair thinning or loss are not the only indication to show you may be having diabetes.
Trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder)
Trichotillomania is a medical disorder whereby victims are made to pull out hair repeatedly especially hair on the scalp, face – eyebrows, eyelashes – or the pubic area. The disorder may run in families but those with compulsive disorders are at risk. This type of pulling is not one’s will, which means that victims are under certain irresistible urge.
Anxiety, depression and stress can sometimes cause trichotillomania. The problem can start from childhood life.
Some people really pull out single hair strands yet some can pull out a good number of hair strands at once. Hair may be cut or actually pulled out from the hair follicles. This can leave patches on scalp without hair or significantly reduce the thickness of hair when held at back.
Individuals susceptible of Trichotillomania admit that they are self-conscious of pulling the hair. Nonetheless, others seem to do it almost absent-mindedly.
Hair loss caused by chemicals
Frequent hair bleaching products can potentially cause hair breakage. Chemicals in hair dyes or sprays can create a similar effect on hair.
Furthermore, breakage and hair fall can be intensified by poor washing, drying, combing or brushing frequently.
Other factors that lead to losing your hair or falling out
In addition to above causes, one may be at risk of losing hair due to the following factors.
1. Insulin resistance
Unlike diabetes, insulin resistance has to do with high level insulin sustained by the body over time. Consequently, this makes your body’s sensitivity to hormones decline. According to the US National Library of Medicine, this is one among other risk factors for losing hair in women (female AGA).
Stress is another factor that will more likely increase chances of losing hair especially the diabetic individuals. In most cases, loss of hair related to stress is temporary.
3. Chronic or regular Telogen Effluvium
When stress comes sudden or you have severe emotional stress, the shedding process increases. This is what is referred to as Telogen Effluvium. Dermatologists have linked stressful situations to causing “certain hair follicles to prematurely stop growing and enter into the telogen (resting) phase.” [www.belgraviacentre.com].
4. Hair loss after surgery
Like stress, surgery is considered a form of Telogen Effluvium in which hair loss is prolonged for at least three months after surgery. This occurs due to the fact that hair growth is suppressed by the need of the body to prepare and start the healing process.
Fortunately, surgery which comprises hair transplant can lead to temporary since it is expected to regrow six or more months after the operation.
More details about treatment and living with hair loss after surgery shall be discussed on a separate post.
5. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
As we mentioned earlier, hormonal imbalance can influence loss of hair. PCOS can manifest itself in hair thinning in women.
This condition can be diagnosed if the symptoms are detected while attending to other hormonal problems. Good enough to say, PCOS is treatable.
6. Certain treatments or medicines
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can cause temporary hair loss. Medicines that may lead to one losing hair are usually prescribed by doctors. These include vitamin supplements, steroids and medicines to cure arthritis, etc.
7. Skin (scalp) conditions or infection
Scalp ringworm is another common problem that causes loss of hair clumps leaving patches on scalp. This kind of infection leads to temporary loss of hair clumps but can be treated and prevented.
Another fungal infection which contributes to you losing hair is piedra or Trichomycosis Nodularis. The areas involved include hair on scalp, body and genital area.
Besides ringworm, inflammatory skin conditions such as folliculitis and seborrheic dermatitis can also lead to loss of hair which is temporary. In addition, these conditions may involve infection on scalp hands or anywhere where they occur.
8. Poor diet and deficiencies in vitamins
Lack of essential vitamins A and B in your diet can cause hair to fall out. Additionally, severe deficiency of Iron can weaken hair making it susceptible to falling out in clumps.
Female hair loss causes and pattern
What causes hair thinning or falling out in women? Is hair loss or pattern baldness in women different from that of men? Initially, scientists thought that predominance of traces of male sex hormone by females was the sole cause of androgenic alopecia.
Now, according to the American Hair Loss Association, the damage of hair follicles caused by conversion of testosterone to DHT happens in both in men and women. As opposed to losing hair in males, when there is an imbalance in female hormones (where these hormones are lowered), women can start losing hair – in addition to other hormonal problems.
Hormonal hair loss in women
This problem in women can be associated with some factors that are closely linked to hormonal action; such as:
- Ovarian cysts
- Birth control practices like contraceptive pills
- Onset of menopause
- After giving birth
Another reason why females lose or hair falls out is anagen effluvium. Its occurrence is associated with processes that lead to impairment of cellular division (mitotic activity). One of the things that lead to this problem is chemotherapy as a treatment method.
In women, traction alopecia occurs probably due from tight hairstyles, (such hair extensions, braiding and cornrows). If done frequently, pulling effect puts a lot of pressure on hair follicles hence trauma.
Other factors discussed above can also account for losing hair in women including ageing, hereditary hair loss, and influence of hormones or stress.
Hair thinning in women
Thinning hair in women in most cases is hereditary. Even though, use of hair products frequently can significantly cause your hair to thin out.
Hair loss in men
Most of the factors that we have discussed can be the reasons why men lose hair. Let us briefly beef up on male hair loss causes, pattern baldness and how it may affect individual or career life.
Hair loss baldness and patterns
Androgenetic alopecia is a common male pattern baldness/hair loss cause among men. Male pattern baldness begins with a receding hairline and hair thinning on crown. As the hairline recedes, a characteristic M-shape forms.
Though the entire male baldness is not well understood, research on genetics indicates that males with androgenic alopecia (AGA) have hair follicles subtly sensitive to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Men losing their hair is less likely to divert career life but can affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.
NOTE: Hereditary loss in men rarely cause thinning hair.
Summary on hair loss in men or women
To sum up, loss of hair generally falls into either hereditary or non-hereditary. “Androgenetic alopecia (AGA) is hair loss that affects men and women and is caused by a genetic predisposition to the hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT).” [www.belgraviacentre.com]
Non-hereditary reasons for hair loss includes hormonal imbalance, disorders, illness, infections and trauma to hair follicles.
Though uncommon, some women can possibly show a male pattern. Similarly, men can also develop the pattern shown in female’s pattern.
Baldness in men is permanent. Even though, news from a recent research shine a spotlight on the possibility of reversing the problem. As published in the journal PLOS Genetics, chief author (Dr. Ricardo Marionini) believes that the new findings on the relation between genetics and losing hair, will revive hopes and provide a possible solution to baldness. However, the research is yet to be evaluated but this would depend on what the hair loss causes are.
Finally, losing hair in men or women especially youthful age can have devastating effects. It could interfere with individual or career life. So far FDA-approved treatments can be applicable but be cautionary with hair restoration treatments under testing.
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- Hair loss: https://medlineplus.gov/hairloss.html
- Hair Loss: https://familydoctor.org/symptom/hair-loss/?adfree=true
- Living with alopecia areata: https://www.naaf.org/alopecia-areata/living-with-alopecia-areata
- Causes of Hair Loss. http://www.americanhairloss.org/men_hair_loss/causes_of_hair_loss.asp. Accessed online on 23rd March 2017
- The Difference Between Male & Female Pattern Hair Loss: http://www.belgraviacentre.com/blog/the-difference-between-male-female-pattern-hair-loss-419/
- Hair loss: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-and-scalp-problems/hair-loss#causes
- Hair loss, insulin resistance, and heredity in middle-aged women. A population-based study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12775957. Accessed online on 23rdMarch 2017.