Hair Loss

Hair loss, or alopecia, is a condition that usually develops gradually and has many potential causes. Though baldness affects more men than women, both men and women tend to lose hair thickness and amount over time, due to genetics, aging, and changes in hormones. Hair loss may be a permanent or temporary condition; it may be patchy or occur all over the scalp.

Genetic baldness is not the result of excessive hair loss; rather, it occurs when hair follicles shrink and lose the ability to produce new hairs to replace the ones that fall out naturally. The earlier the hair loss begins, the more severe the baldness is likely to become.

Better understanding the type and cause of your hair loss can help you and your doctor develop a treatment plan to stop the process or slow it down.

Types

• Male pattern baldness is characterized by a receding hairline and thinning of the hair around the crown, with eventual bald spots. A history of hair loss on either side of your family may increase your risk and affect the age at which you begin to lose hair.

• Female pattern baldness involves a thinning of hair throughout the scalp, but the front hairline is generally unchanged.

• A sudden increase in hair loss following physical or emotional stress – a condition known as Telogen effluvium (TE) – is the second most common form of hair loss dermatologists see. TE is the result of an increased number of hair follicles entering a resting state and is normally fully reversible. Though it is most often limited to the scalp, in serious cases it can affect other regions, such as the eyebrows.

Causes

Causes for hair loss vary from person to person and may be genetic or lifestyle related. TE can be triggered by disease, certain medications, injury to the hair follicle, or trauma that disturbs the hair’s growth patterns. Some women experience short-term TE after childbirth. Any major surgery or physical trauma, such as being in a car crash, can lead to temporary hair loss, as well as severe emotional stress, restrictive diets, eating disorders, or rapid weight loss.

Treatment

Talk to your doctor if you are losing hair in an unusual pattern or you begin losing hair rapidly at an early age. Treatments for hair loss vary and may include topical liquids or foams, oral medications, light therapy, or hair transplantation surgery. For some people, a combination of different procedures may be used to restore hair growth.

For hair loss related to illness, medication use, or emotional or physical trauma, no treatment is necessary. The hair will usually grow back after the illness had ended or the underlying cause has been resolved.