POTENTIAL CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS
IN MEN AND WOMEN
Your hair is made of Keratin (KER-uh-tin), the same protein that makes up your nails and the outer layer of your skin. The part you see and style is called the hair shaft. It is actually dead tissue made by your hair follicles - tiny bulb-like structures beneath your scalp's surface. Follicles produce hair during a growth phase called the anagen phase, which lasts from 2-6 years. Each hair, at its own pre-programmed stage, goes into a rest phase called catagen, which lasts about 3 months. Then the follicle sheds its hair and replaces it with a new one during the telogen phase. Because of the anagen, catagen and telogen cycle, daily hair loss is a natural biological occurrence. Normal hair loss is about 50-125 strands per day. Loss of more than 125 hairs per day is considered excessive. A normal head of hair consists of approximately 80,000 - 120,000 hairs (redheads: 80,000; brunettes and black hair: 100,000; blondes: 120,000). Many factors can disrupt this hair growth cycle. When this happens your hair falls out prematurely, or it is not replaced.Below are some of the most commonly diagnosed causes of hair loss in men and women.
Hereditary Hair Loss
The most common cause of hair loss is genetic. When the hair is genetically programmed to fall out, the condition is known as Male or Female Pattern Hair loss, or Androgenetic Alopecia. For women, hair loss usually occurs at menopause, although it may start at any age and can first become apparent by the age of 25-30. For men, it typically begins about the age of 30. Hereditary hair loss occurs when an enzyme starts to convert the hormone testosterone on the scalp to dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. The replacement hairs become progressively finer and shorter. They become almost transparent. In male pattern baldness there is usually loss of hair along the hairline; women generally experience thinning across the entire scalp. Unfortunately, this type of hair loss is permanent, but the process can be slowed down with the use of DHT blockers, taken internally and applied topically.
Hormones can also play a part in hair loss, (particularly in women). When an unusually large hormonal change occurs, women may experience some noticeable thinning. Hormonal imbalances can occur during and after pregnancy, during menopause or when a woman discontinues taking birth control pills. Hair loss caused by fluctuating hormones is usually not permanent and generally hair will grow back within approximately 6-12 months. However, in some people, this fluctuation in hormones can lead to permanent hair loss.
To learn more about hormonal hair loss, I highly recommend Dr. David Brownstein's book or DVD,The Miracle of Natural Hormones (Third Edition).
David Brownstein, M.D. is a family physician who utilizes the best of conventional and alternative therapies. He is the Medical Director for the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Brownstein is board certified by the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College for the Advancement in Medicine. Dr. Brownstein has lectured internationally about the medical use of natural hormones. He has also authored several books on health and wellness including, Overcoming Thyroid Disorders, Overcoming Arthritis and Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can't Live Without It.
Thyroid Related Hair Loss
Thyroid disorders are another common reason for hair loss. There are millions of people living with hypothyroidism and suffering from many symptoms--including hair loss--which have been misdiagnosed, leading to ineffective treatment or no treatment at all. While hereditary hair loss is a gradual process, those with thyroid disorders often experience a more sudden onset of hair loss. They may notice large amounts of hair falling out in the shower or sink, accompanied by changes in the hair's texture, making it dry, coarse and easily tangled. Another symptom of hypothyroidism is loss of hair on the outer edge of the eyebrows. I have noticed this condition in many of my clients and have referred them to one of the thyroid specialists I work with for proper evaluation and diagnosis. For additional information and resources on thyroid disorders, I highly recommend the following:
Kenneth R. Blanchard, M.D., Ph.D. is an endocrinologist certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Endocrinology and Metabolism. He studied as an undergraduate at MIT, received a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Princeton University, and completed his medical studies at Cornell University Medical College. Dr. Blanchard completed his residency at NewYork-Memorial Hospital in New York City [wanted to see if there should be a space between New York and couldn’t find this hospital on the Internet. There was Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital. Is that it? Pls verify name.]and his Fellowship in Endocrinology at Boston VA Hospital. His private practice in Newton-Wellesley, Massachusetts, consumes most of his time, although he does lecture on the topic of hypothyroidism and is considered an authority on the subject. His reputation for successful treatment of hypothyroidism draws an international patient base. He participates in health symposiums for lay audiences and for professionals and has appeared on local television health programs. He developed his unique, successful approach to hypothyroidism based on twenty-five years of observations, cautious empirical treatment, and mounting clinical evidence.
Dr. Blanchard is the author of, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Hypothyroidism - A Simple Plan for Extraordinary Results. In his book he shares his revolutionary, research-based approach to the diagnosis and treatment of this common, yet regularly overlooked, disease. A must read for patients and physicians alike!
Mary J. Shomon
, a thyroid patient herself, writes and manages several professional patient-oriented websites on thyroid disease and serves as editor-in-chief of the popular patient-focused monthly newsletter, "Sticking Out Our Necks". She is the author of several books, including the successful, Living Well with Hypothyroidism
. Please visit: http://www.thyroid-info.com/
to receive her free monthly news report. You'll find thyroid news and information, personal thyroid stories and more. The site has hundreds of comprehensive, up-to-date links to the Web's best resources on hypothyroidism, thyroid disease and health information.
Please visit: http://thyroid.about.com/
to view her Thyroid Disease website. This site provides dozens of feature articles related to all facets of thyroid disease and in-depth annotated links to hundreds of the Web's best thyroid disease sites.
Stress can trigger hair loss whether people are predestined to lose hair or not. When stress causes hair loss in men and women who do not have hereditary hair loss, the effects are usually not permanent. But for those who do have hereditary hair loss, stress can actually speed up the process. The stress must be quite severe before it leads to hair loss. Examples of severe stress are: loss of a loved one, divorce, strenuous sports training, severe illness, or drastic weight loss.
The word "auto" is the Greek word for self. The immune system is a complicated network of cells and cell components (called molecules) that normally work to defend the body and eliminate infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and other invading microbes. If a person has an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body, targeting the cells, tissues, and organs. There are many different autoimmune diseases, and they can each affect the body in different ways. Very often, hair loss is associated with autoimmune diseases. To learn more about autoimmune diseases, please visit The American Autoimmune Related Disease Association at: http://www.aarda.org.
Alopecia is a common disease that results in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere. Alopecia occurs in males and females of all ages, but onset most often occurs in childhood. There are three types of Alopecia: Alopecia Areata, Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis. Alopecia Areata is the most common and is described as hair loss in one or more small, round, smooth patches on the scalp. Alopecia Totalis involves hair loss over the entire scalp and Alopecia Universalis indicates hair loss on the entire body. The affected hair follicles become very small, drastically slowing down production. No matter how widespread the hair loss, the hair follicles remain alive and are ready to resume normal hair production whenever they receive the appropriate signal. If this happens, hair growth occurs without treatment, even after many years. For more information about Alopecia please visit: http://www.naaf.org/.
Scarring Alopecia occurs when scar tissue replaces destroyed normal tissue on the scalp and can be caused by any number of things such as burns, infectious agents or diseases such as Scleroderma, Lupus Erythematosus, etc. Because normal tissue is replaced and the hair cannot grow through scar tissue, Scarring Alopecia is permanent.
Traction Alopecia is where the hair may temporarily or permanently stop growing in certain areas on the head, usually because of continuous and excessive stress on particular hairs. For instance, if you continuously style your hair in a ponytail, braid, bun or in cornrows, the hairs with the most tension may gradually stop growing, resulting in hair loss. If this type of traction and hair loss continues for an excessive period of time, then the hair loss may be permanent. Generally, however, a change in hairstyle that reduces the traction on the hair follicle is all that is required in order to reverse the process. This is especially common in women who wear tight braiding or cornrow styles.
Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling Disorder)
Another version of Traction Alopecia is Trichotillomania, often referred to as "Hair Pulling Disorder." Trichotillomania is the result of an impulse control disorder, when a person compulsively pulls out strands of hair in distinct patches on the scalp. Some individuals also pull out hairs from the eyebrows and eyelashes. Trichotillomania is often caused by an undue amount of anxiety, stress and depression. It most commonly occurs among young children, adolescents and adult women, generally affecting twice as many females as males. The most effective treatment is psychological therapy, sometimes coupled with the use of prescription medications.
Tinea Capitis is another name for Ringworm, which appears on the scalp. Tinea Capitis is highly contagious and may spread throughout an entire family or schoolroom quickly. It can also be passed from animals to humans. The main symptoms or signs of Tinea Capitis are scaling and redness in a round or uneven area and stubbled hair loss. This is where the tinea is digesting the keratin of the hair. These patches of hair loss slowly expand as the tinea spreads. The most common treatment for Ringworm is an anti-fungal agent, taken once a day for a period lasting between 4 and 12 weeks.
Chemotherapy Drugs and Radiation Treatments
Chemotherapy drugs designed to poison cancer cells also poison the hair follicles and will often result in total hair loss. Hair loss from chemotherapy treatments will start approximately 2-3 weeks after the first dose, but won't result in total hair loss until 1-2 months have elapsed. Hair loss is reversible and will grow back in about 3-4 months after the last chemotherapy dose. Hair on the head is most commonly affected, but there can also be loss of eyebrow hair and eyelashes. The scalp may become very tender and hair that is still growing may become dull and dry. Many men and women have found that their hair has grown back thicker and perhaps a different color (usually darker) and curly. Eventually the hair will return to its original thickness and shade.
Other Contributing Factors of Hair Loss
Other contributing factors that promote hair loss include: poor circulation, acute illness, surgery, sudden weight loss, high fever, iron deficiency, diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, high doses of vitamin A and a variety of medications.