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Hair Loss

Losing some hair daily is normal and part of the natural growth cycle. The lost hair regrows in most individuals, allowing them to maintain a full head of hair. However, factors like disease, aging, hormonal changes, genetic conditions, and stress can disrupt this cycle. As a result, more hair may fall out without the new strands growing back.

By Able Health I Medically reviewed by Dr. Alireza Estedlal

Page last reviewed: February 2024 I Next review due: February 2026

What is hair loss?

Typically, a healthy person loses up to 100 strands of hair each day. New hair grows to replace the ones shed as part of the natural growth cycle.

But when one starts losing more hair and fewer or no new strands grow back, this condition is known as alopecia (or hair loss). There are various forms of hair loss, which can happen in adults of any age and gender. Sometimes, it also affects children. In addition, hair loss may occur on the scalp alone or affect the entire body.

What are the types of hair loss?

Some hair loss types are permanent, whereas others can be temporary. The prevalent types are:

  • Androgenic alopecia: This form of hereditary baldness may occur in both men and women (male pattern baldness or female hair loss).
  • Alopecia areata: This autoimmune disorder causes hair loss on the head and the whole body.
  • Telogen effluvium: This rapid hair shedding that happens over a short period, often a few months after undergoing physical or emotional stress or abrupt hormonal change.
  • Anagen effluvium: This is another highly rapid loss of hair resulting from some medical treatments, like chemotherapy.

What Causes Hair Loss?

There are various potential causes of hair loss, and the most common ones are:

  • Hereditary loss of hair caused by genes inherited from your parents.
  • Fungal infections on your scalp
  • Hairstyles that tightly pull the hair, like hair extensions, braids, and tight ponytails.
  • Hair care causing damage because of processing techniques (like perms and bleaching).
  • Hormonal changes, including pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
  • Medical treatments, like chemotherapy and particular medications.
  • Lack of essential nutrients, particularly iron or protein.
  • Stressful events such as undergoing surgery or the loss of a loved one.
  • Thyroid disease

Symptoms of Hair Loss

The primary symptom of hair loss is increased hair shedding, which can be subtle and difficult to detect. You should thus look for signs such as:

  • Widening part: A wider part in your hair that is noticeable can indicate thinning.
  • Receding hairline: A higher hairline than usual might signal hair thinning.
  • Loose hair: If you notice more hair is collecting in your comb or brush after use, it could indicate hair loss.
  • Bald patches: Varying in size, these patches may enlarge with time.
  • Clogged drains: Hair accumulating in sink or shower drains could signify hair loss.
  • Pain or itching: Having an underlying skin disease that causes hair loss can also trigger discomfort or itching on the scalp.

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What are the complications of hair loss?

For most people, hair loss, be it temporary or permanent, may be emotionally challenging. Other types of alopecia can even cause complete baldness.

Therefore, protecting your scalp is highly important. Consider wearing a scarf, hat, and other head covers when in the sun. Also, apply sunscreen every day to minimize the risk of skin cancer due to sun exposure.

Treatment

What are the treatment options for hair loss?

If your alopecia condition is due to medication, thyroid disease, hormonal imbalances, or dietary problems, the doctor will treat the root cause. Addressing the underlying condition is usually all that is required to stop the loss of hair.

Many treatments for hair loss are designed to assist with androgenic alopecia (male and female pattern hair loss). They are:

  • Medication: Over-the-counter drugs which are applied on the scalp, are usually the first treatment option for thinning hair.
  • Hair transplant: This procedure involves cautiously removing hair strands from the parts of the head with dense hairs. They are then transplanted and embedded in areas where hair is thinning.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP): During this procedure, blood is drawn, and the plasma is separated. The obtained platelet-rich plasma is then injected into the scalp to reduce hair loss and promote new strand growth.

How Can I Prevent Hair Loss?

To lower hair loss, you can consider these helpful tips:

  • Keeping hairstyles loose: Try to maintain your braids, ponytails, or buns loose if they are your regular hairstyles to avoid putting hair under excess pressure.
  • Refraining from touching your hair: Try as much as you can to minimize pulling, twisting, or rubbing your hair.
  • Patting hair dry: Pat your hair dry gently with a towel after washing instead of rubbing or twisting it.
  • Eating a balanced diet: Consider including a lot of iron and protein in your everyday diet.

Certain styling products and equipment can also contribute to hair loss. They are:

  • Blow dryers
  • Hair straighteners
  • Heated combs
  • Bleaching agents
  • Coloring products
  • Perms
  • Relaxers

When styling your hair using heated devices, do so only on dry hair and at the minimum heat settings possible.

For those who are currently experiencing hair loss, wash your hair using gentle baby shampoo. Unless your hair is very oily, consider washing it every other day or less frequently.

When to see a doctor about hair loss

It is important to consult a healthcare provider if you experience unexplained loss of hair. They can help diagnose the cause and recommend the best treatment.

During your visit, ensure that you discuss any other uncommon symptoms you have experienced, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss that is unexplained
  • Bowel movements change
  • Rashes and other skin changes on the scalp or body
  • Recent surgeries and medical procedures
  • Dietary and nutritional changes
  • New vaccinations or medications

In addition, providing details about how fast the hair loss happened, as well as any family history of alopecia, can be helpful.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

Consider asking your healthcare provider the following questions:

  • What is the cause of my hair loss?
  • Do I have to change any of my present medications?
  • What are the suitable treatments for my condition?
  • Am I an ideal candidate for a hair transplant?
  • Are there treatments that will help my hair grow back?

A Note from MD

Hair loss, regardless of the cause, could be emotionally challenging. Discuss your concerns with your doctor to understand what may be contributing to the condition. Mostly, effective treatments are available that can reduce hair loss and promote new growth. Many individuals find ways to feel confident and thrive despite how much hair they have left.