Hair loss in women is more common that some people believe. After all, it is perfectly normal to lose hair every day; after a shower, blow dry, or even after combing one’s hair. In fact, the average person can expect to lose between 50 and 100 hairs on any given day. Hair loss generally only becomes a problem when a woman loses hair faster than her body is able to form new hair, which may lead to complete baldness in women in some cases. Interestingly, while male pattern baldness is almost completely hereditary, with some studies showing a genetic contribution factor of up to 90%, hair loss in women does not seem to have a seemingly singular cause.
For instance, telogen effluvium is a condition brought on by an environmental or physiological stressor, such as surgery, stress, significant weight loss, or even after pregnancy. Women who suffer from this condition will usually notice significant hair loss after shampooing or after brushing or combing their hair. In addition, hair loss will become apparent 6 weeks to 3 months after the woman has undergone a traumatic or stressful event. Moreover, even certain medications, including anti-inflammatory drugs, beta-blockers, and anti-depressants, can trigger telogen effluvium episodes.
There is no bona fide test to diagnose telogen effluvium in women, although your doctor may look for minuscule club-shaped bulbs on the roots of fallen hair. They may also ask you if you have undergone any invasive medical procedures, have taken any medications recently, or if you have dealt with a tragedy in your life, such as the death of a loved one. Sometimes simply biding one’s time, reducing the dosage of certain drugs, switching medications, or PTSD counselling can alleviate or eliminate telogen effluvium.
In addition, hair loss that is genetically caused is known as androgenetic alopecia, and is the most common cause of hair loss. A woman can inherit androgenetic alopecia from either her mother or father’s side, although the risk is higher if both her parents suffered from the condition. Women susceptible to androgenetic alopecia will notice hair thinning behind their bangs at the hairline. In some cases the hair loss may form across the entire scalp, sometimes known as diffuse hair loss. As for treatment, some women may benefit from minoxidil (Rogaine) to treat androgenetic alopecia, although women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid the drug. Furthermore, a lower strength version of the drug is recommended for women (vis-a-vis men) in order to avoid certain unpleasant side effects. If you decide to use minoxidil to treat your hair loss, you should apply the medication to hair loss areas twice a day, and it is important to note that minoxidil must be taken every day for life in order to prevent hair loss from recurring in the future.
Hypothyroidism has also been known to cause hair loss in some women. In fact, the majority of hypothyroidism suffers are women, and women over the age of 50 are the most susceptible. Hypothyroidism develops when a person’s thyroid does not produce sufficient amounts of the thyroid hormone. As a result, the body is unable to produce ample amounts of hair like it used to, resulting in exacerbated hair loss. If you suspect that you may be suffering from hypothyroidism, a blood test can help diagnose the disorder. Furthermore, most patients with hypothyroidism are treated with thyroid hormone medications in order to restore anabolic and metabolic homeostasis.
Lupus has also been known to cause hair loss in some women. Lupus tends to affect women during their childbearing years, and affects over 15 million people. It is essentially an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks healthy tissues, leading to ulcers, swollen joints, headaches, chronic fatigue, sensitive skin, high fevers, chest pain, anaemia, and hair loss. Furthermore, lupus can be diagnosed by a specialized tissue and joint test that screens for inflammation. A skin biopsy may also be performed, as well as a blood test that measures the levels of anti-nuclear antibodies in the bloodstream. In addition, if lupus is detected, your doctor may prescribe a topical cream to treat any rashes on the scalp, as well as prednisone, which is an oral medication that helps treat fatigue and joint pain.
Iron deficiency, sometimes known as anaemia, can also lead to hair loss in some women. Iron deficiency usually develops when women do not intake sufficient iron-rich foods, or lose excess amounts of red blood cells via heavy menstrual cycles. As red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen to cells throughout the body, a lack of red blood cells can lead to lack of energy, shortness of breath, headaches, cold hands and feet, pale skin, and hair loss. Iron deficiency is usually diagnosed by a blood tests that measure the amount of hematocrit and ferritin in the blood. In addition, women who suffer from anaemia may be prescribed iron supplements. The average woman requires 18 milligrams of iron per day, with menopausal women requiring 8 milligrams. In regards to hair loss and anaemia, your doctor may prescribe hair loss treatments that contain ingredients such as L-cysteine, biotin, iron, and silica.
While we have discussed some of the most common types of hair loss, as well as some of the conditions or illnesses that lead to hair loss, there a few less common causes and types of hair loss that we need to consider. For instance, polycystic ovarian syndrome, seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), ringworm infections, psoriasis, alopecia areata, and excessive shampooing, dying, and hair styling can also lead to hair loss. If you use hair extensions or braid your hair then you may develop a condition known as traction alopecia. Traction alopecia essentially involves excessive trauma to hair follicles, brought on by tight hairstyles. However, if detected early, hair regrowth will occur simply by avoiding tight ponytails, cornrows, etc, in the future.
Finally, anagen effluvium is a condition that is primarily brought on by chemotherapy treatments to treat cancer. Chemotherapy works by not only destroying cancer cells that rapidly divide in order to spread, but healthy cells as well, including cells that are responsible for follicular mitosis. A doctor may diagnose anagen effluvium by looking for a conical fracture of hair shafts. That is, hair shaft narrowing is brought on by significant damage to the matrix, leading to shaft fracturing and hair loss in the process.
In sum, if you are concerned about hair loss, you are not alone. The latest findings show that 40% of all hair loss sufferers in the United States are women. Unfortunately, there is a stigma associated with hair loss in women to an extent far greater than hair loss in men. Fortunately, there are many natural and synthetic treatments available to curb or eliminate hair loss; including, but not limited to Rogaine, Propecia, hair transplantation surgery, psychotherapy, dietary changes, and nutritional supplements. Speak to your doctor to help you decide what treatment will work best for you.