Hair loss, also known as alopecia or baldness, refers to a loss of hair from part of the head or body. Typically at least the head is involved. The severity of hair loss can vary from a small area to the entire body. Typically inflammation or scarring is not present. Hair loss in some people causes psychological distress.
Hair loss can be one of the most stressful things for both men and women. There are a wide variety of causes ranging from systemic illnesses, auto-immune conditions to hereditary causes.
While the most obvious sign of hair loss is the actual loss of hair, at this point your condition may be so far advanced that any treatment may not be as effective. Therefore, it is vital for patients to identify their hair loss as early as possible.
Some early signs of hair loss include:
- A receding hairline
- Pain, itch or tenderness in the scalp
- Development of a clear bald spot
- Decreased hair density
- Large clumps of hair falling out while shampooing or washing
Hair loss is sometimes programmed into our hair follicles, meaning some individuals are more likely to lose their hair than others. However, some factors can make things worse.
These factors include:
- Hormones – Male hormones known as Androgens are produced by both men and women, at normal levels. When excess androgens are produced, hair loss is a common symptom. Certain people who abuse steroids and other hormone replacement methods, will experience hair loss as a side effect. Using these enhancers, without a doctor’s approval or for recreation, can cause abnormal fluctuations in hormone levels.
- Stress or Disease – Elevated stress levels are known to contribute to alopecia, usually causing a temporary hair loss. Some medical conditions such as thyroid issues, lupus, diabetes and anemia are known to cause deficiency in certain vitamins or minerals that are vital in the growth of new hair.
- Family History – Hair loss often runs in families. Genes from both mother and father, can leave offspring genetically predisposed to male or female pattern hair loss.
- Heat and Tension – Any hair style that puts tension on the hair follicle can cause inflammation which can ultimately cause hair loss. This may occur years after the hair styles have been worn. Examples include tight pony tails and tight braids. Heat when used very close to the scalp such as in the use of hot combs, or curling irons where the scalp is put through any type of pain can also cause hair loss over time.
- Diet & Nutrition – Poor diet can leave individuals deficient of certain nutrients that are vital to sustained hair growth and regrowth. For example, certain calorie-restrictive diets, or protein deficient diets, can cause temporary hair loss.
- Medications – Some prescription medications can lead to hair loss, for both men and women. Common culprits include cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, blood thinners, birth control pills and some blood pressure medications.