Hair Loss

What is Hair Loss?

Most people lose between 50 and 100 hairs each day, naturally. There are many reasons why you might experience more extreme hair loss on your scalp including thyroid disease, anemia, lack of protein in the diet, or a deficiency in some vitamins. Sometimes, the body develops an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata, where the immune system overreacts and destroys hair follicles. Chemotherapy, a treatment for cancer, can cause hair loss.

The most common reason for hair loss is genetics. Hereditary hair loss, known as androgenetic or androgenic hair loss, where men or women naturally lose hair as they age, is also a common reason for hair loss. The hair loss is usually gradual, compared to when hair falls out due to an illness or hormonal imbalance. This is also known as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness.

Two main types of non-hereditary hair loss can occur:

Patchy hair loss

Patchy hair loss, where small areas become bald, is often caused by alopecia areata or by pulling on the hair roots, such as by wearing hairstyles that require bands or ties. A fungal infection can also cause patchy hair loss.

Generalized/diffuse hair loss

The second type, generalized or diffuse hair loss, can happen when someone has been ill, after childbirth due to hormonal changes or after sudden weight loss. Hair from all over the scalp falls out rapidly and thins the hair rather than creating bald spots.

You may also experience hair loss on other areas of the body. Extreme cases of alopecia areata can cause loss of eyelashes, eyebrows, facial and body hair.

What are the Symptoms of Hair Loss?

In addition to losing more hair than normal, hair loss may have other symptoms depending on its cause. For example, rough or scaly skin and redness can indicate a fungal infection.

Hormonal hair loss may be accompanied by other signs of hormonal imbalance, such as mood swings, weight gain or loss, fatigue, digestion issues and unusual sweating or feeling cold.

Hair Loss Causes

Hair loss can occur as a result of physical trauma to the hair. This can take the form of an auto accident, surgery or severe illness. Sometimes, severe flu can also trigger temporary hair loss. The type of hair loss caused by physical trauma is referred to as telogen effluvium. This type of hair loss often becomes noticeable two to five months after the incident.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also trigger hair loss. However, most pregnancy-related hair losses occur after delivery rather than during the actual pregnancy period.

Hair loss can also be attributed to a poor diet. Due to a lack of proteins in your diet, the body may respond by stopping or slowing hair growth. According to experts, this can begin happening around four months after a drop in taking protein.

Hypothyroidism, a medical term referring to an underactive thyroid gland, is another common cause of hair loss. Other known causes of hair loss include heredity, age, and medications like antidepressants and blood thinners as well as prolonged anxiety. Exposure to radiation during chemotherapy can also cause hair loss.

How is Hair Loss Treated?

Medications can be used to treat the reason for your hair loss. If you have thyroid issues, anemia or hormonal imbalance, your doctor can treat that medical concern and doing so will slow down your hair loss.

For hereditary hair loss, there are two types of medications that may help. One is a foam that you massage into the scalp to encourage hair growth, and the other is an oral medication for men only.

There are also surgical options for treating baldness, which involve removing small plugs of skin from areas of scalp that have hair and implanting them in the areas with little or no hair.

Hair Loss Prevention

Proper diet is key to preventing hair loss. Start nourishing your hair by taking foods rich in proteins and Omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and salmon. Zinc and iron-rich foods can also help you keep hair loss at bay. Also, ensure that you take fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins A and C for healthy hair.

Avoid hair styles that strain your hair line. These include tight cornrows, ponytails, braids and everything else that pulls on your hair. With regards hair treatment, ensure that your scalp receives regular massage, massaging your scalp while in the shower as well as before applying hair conditioner. Scalp massage is believed to stimulate hair growth by improving blood circulation to the follicles in the scalp.

Finally, be wary of prolonged stress. Remember, sound psychological health is key to preventing hair loss.

Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
December 29, 2017