Hair Loss: The 6 Most Common Causes in Women
Earlier this week, I discussed pattern baldness, modulated exclusively by genetics and sex hormones. The causes of non-pattern baldness, on the other hand, are varied and more easily treated. The six most common of these causes will be covered in this chapter.
Low levels of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland can lead to a syndrome of varied symptoms, including hair loss. The problem is common, with estimates that one-in-four will suffer from low thyroid at some point. Diagnosis is confirmed with a blood test. Women are more susceptible to hypothyroidis; the most common mechanism being an immune system attack on the thyroid. Hair loss with hypothyroidism is wide-spread thinning. Besides hair loss, common symptoms are moodiness, fatigue, weight gain, bowel irregularities, menstrual irregularities, and dry skin. Low thyroid is easily treated with hormone supplements taken daily as pills. When regulated, hair slowly replenishes.
#2. Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is characterized by patchy hair loss that occurs spontaneously. Severity of this phenomenon may range from a small single patch to confluent patches that involve the entire body. Mostly, however, the condition involves a few patches on the sides of the scalp. A characteristic yellow hue is often noted on the balding skin. Alopecia areata is caused by an immune system attack on the hair follicles causing the hair to fall out. Chronic disease, stress, or an autoimmune disorder (like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis) are often related to the development of alopecia areata. Often, the hair will come back spontaneously. Treatment with steroids, either as an ointment applied to the balding areas or injected into the balding areas, can often speed up resolution. Injections are considered more successful than topical ointments.
#3. Telogen Effluvium
Telogen effluvium occurs when the hair follicle is trapped in the dormant phase, causing hair loss. Hair loss may be patchy or a diffuse thinning. The common factor in telogen effluvium is emotional or physical stress. Psychological trauma or overwhelming stress can lead to telogen effluvium. Physical stresses include malnutrition, eating disorders, crash diets, surgery, serious diseases, or high fever. Sometimes, side effects from certain medication can cause this phenomenon.The key to fixing this problem is mending the underlying cause.
#4. Traction Alopecia
Constant pulling on the hair can cause the hair to let loose from the follicle. This is commonly seen in tight braiding as in corn rolls, dreadlocks and weaves. Tight pony tails can put traction on the frontal hair line causing it to recede. Hair often grows back slowly when the traction is released. Chronic use of helmets that promotes rubbing of pads on the scalp can create the same type of hair loss. Some of the hair may grow back slowly that was lost. Creams aiming at promoting blood flow to the area have been shown to help (Menthogen).
#5. Fungal Infection
Occasionally, patchy baldness can be brought on by a parasitic invader - a fungus. These elements find a home in the covered, dark, moist skin of the scalp, causing the hair to weaken and break as it grows upward and away. This infection usually comes from the scalp of another person or an animal (cats and dogs most commonly). The problem presents as patchy hair loss, with the multiple dots of broken hair distinguishing it from other causes of patchy baldness. Treating fungal scalp infections can be challenging. To successfully treat this infection, oral (systemic) antifungal medication is needed for a matter of weeks.
#6. Relative Hair Loss
Often, concern develops about an acceleration in typical daily hair loss, as more hair is noted in brushes or the shower drain. In these situations, the paradox is that things are merely returning to baseline after a "thickening of the coat." As seen in animals with thick, rich coats, when weather changes from cold to warm, this phenomenon results. Warm weather creates a natural thinning of the scalp when the warmth of a thick coat is not needed.
Another cause of relative hair loss is the female hormonal cycle, most commonly during pregnancy. The boost in hormones with gestation thickens the hair, but when the pregnancy is finished, the hormonal support of the thick hair brings hair loss toward the baseline.