Hair loss is an extremely common condition, and it is as normal as the actions of breathing and sleeping. Each and every person loses some hair every day and losing up to 100 strands of hair a day is considered normal. This hair loss does not cause any noticeable thinning of the scalp because new hair starts growing at the same time. A person having hereditary hair loss can lose a lot more hair every day. So, hair loss and hair growth can be seen as a continued process or cycle. The problem arises when this natural cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted due to some reason or the hair follicles are destroyed and replaced by scar tissue. There are several causes of hair loss in men and women, but some of the most common causes include heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions and certain medications.
Causes of Hair Loss in Men and Women
Although, men are more vulnerable to hair loss compared to women mainly due to male pattern baldness, but women also experience thinning of hair that is no less depressing. The reasons for hair loss may range from temporary causes to more complex or irreversible conditions.
Male Pattern Baldness:
This is one of the most common reasons for hair fall in men that affects 2 out of 3 men by the time they reach 60. This is a condition caused by a combination of faulty genes and influence of androgenic hormones. Male pattern baldness is also termed androgenic alopecia. It is characterized by a pattern of receding hairline and thinning of hair on the crown region.
Heredity: Hair fall can also be a result of heredity. If you have a family history of hair fall or you come from a family where women experience hair loss at a certain age then you are more prone to this condition as well. This condition is also termed female pattern baldness. Unlike men, women don’t tend to have a bald spot or receding hairline. Instead, the gap between hair follicles may widen and they may have noticeable thinning of hair.
Stress: Both emotional and physical Stress takes a serious toll on overall health and promotes hair loss. Physical stress resulting from an illness, high fever, pregnancy or surgery can lead to hair loss and thinning of hair. Although, emotional stress is less likely to cause hair loss compared to physical stress but trying situations such as going through a case of divorce, death of a loved one or caring for an aging parent can aggravate a hair loss problem that already exists.
Protein deficiency: A poor diet or deficiency of protein and iron in the diet is one of the major reasons for hair loss. If the body does not get enough protein from the diet, then it starts to ration protein by stopping hair growth, eventually leading to hair fall. This happens approximately 2 to 3 months after a fall in protein intake.
Female Hormones: Female hormones play an important role in hair growth and hair fall. The hormonal changes caused by pregnancy and menopause can lead to hair loss, and the same can happen when women opt for or go off birth-control pills. Hormonal changes can also lead to a condition known as Telogen Effluvium in which the number of hair follicle producing hair drops significantly leading to substantial increase in dormant hair follicles, thus, resulting in Telogen Effluvium hair loss.
Anemia: Iron deficiency anemia is yet another cause of hair loss. Women who experience heavy periods or don’t consume enough iron-rich foods are susceptible to iron deficiency. In this condition, the blood doesn’t have enough red blood cells that transport oxygen to the cells throughout the body. Lack of oxygen supply to the hair follicles makes the hair strands weak and brittle.
Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is a condition where the patient has an underactive thyroid gland. Thyroid hormone produced by the gland is responsible for metabolism, growth and development including the growth of your hair, skin and nails. When the thyroid gland fails to produce enough hormones, it can contribute to hair loss and various other symptoms.
Alopecia Areata: This is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles. The precise causes of Alopecia Areata are not known, but it may be triggered by illness or stress. This disorder leads to hair loss from all over the body – scalp, legs, eyebrows, etc. It is equally common among both men and women.
Lupus: Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the healthy tissues and the hair follicles. Unfortunately, in case of Lupus, hair loss is caused by scarring which means the hair will not grow back in future. Lupus affects almost 1.5 million people, and it is more common among women during their childbearing age.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the leading causes of infertility among women. It is caused by a disparity in male and female hormones. An excess of male hormones or androgens in the body can lead to hair thinning, ovarian cysts, weight gain, changes in menstrual cycle, increased risk of diabetes and infertility.
Medications: Certain classes of medication such as blood thinners, blood pressure drugs and antidepressants can promote hair loss. Other drugs such as methotrexate, lithium, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also lead to hair fall.
Excessive Styling: Excessive use of shampoo, conditioners, styling products and dying can damage the hair beyond repair and it is one of the main causes of hair loss. Heated styling tools and chemicals weaken the hair strands, making them brittle. Chemicals, high heat, rough handling and extreme styling such as tight braiding, hair weaving affects the hair roots preventing the hair from growing back.
Trichotillomania: This is also known as the Hair-pulling disorder. It is an impulse control disorder in which people pull their hair out compulsively from their scalp, eyebrows and other parts of the body. Trichotillomania is more common among women compared to men and it usually appear during the teen years.
Prevention and Treatment for Hair Loss
Male Pattern Baldness: Topical creams containing minoxidil and oral medications such as finasteride are considered the best treatment for hair loss in this case. Hair transplantation surgery and hair grafting are also viable options for treatment of male pattern baldness.
Heredity: Like men, women can also benefit from minoxidil that helps to promote hair growth or, at least, maintain the remaining hair.
Stress: This is a temporary condition and in most cases the shedding eventually stops when the stressful situation is over. You can also take preventive measures to reduce stress and anxiety by engaging in some relaxing exercises and practicing yoga and meditation.
Protein Deficiency: There are many ways to increase the amount of protein in your diet. Some of the healthiest sources of protein include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, legumes, lentils and nuts.
Female Hormones: If a new hormone replacement medicine or birth control pill is causing hair loss then you should switch back or talk to your doctor about some other birth control types. Stopping oral contraceptives can also cause hair fall, but it is a temporary condition that gets better with time.
Anemia: A simple iron supplement can help to correct iron deficiency anemia and its associated symptoms such as hair loss, fatigue, headache and dizziness.
Hypothyroidism: Synthetic thyroid medication can help the thyroid levels to return to normal and stop hair loss.
Alopecia Areata: Steroid injections are the first line of treatment for alopecia Areata. Other medications include Minoxidil. But the path of the disease is unpredictable which can cause the hair to grow and then fall out again.
Lupus – Hair fall in case of Lupus is caused by scarring that makes it impossible for the hair to grow back.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Treating poly cystic ovary syndrome can correct the hormonal imbalance and reverse hair loss. Other treatments include a healthy diet, regular exercise and birth control pills.
Medications: Consult a doctor in order to identify the medication that is causing hair loss, talk to him about either lowering the dose or switching over to another medicine.
Excessive styling: Limiting the use of styling products, heated styling tools, hair dye, chemical-laden products, etc. is one of the best ways for hair loss prevention. Using a conditioner after every shampoo and air drying your hair also prevents it from further damage.
Trichotillomania: Antidepressants and behavioural modification therapy can help to control this impulse control disorder.
The condition of your hair not only affects the way you look, but it also acts as an indicator of your overall health. So, if you experience sudden unexplained hair loss then talk to a doctor or dermatologist at once.
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All the treatments – medicines, injections and vaccines are for general information of the reader. Please consult a doctor and get a formal prescription before taking any medicines, supplements and injections.
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