Hair Loss in Men and Women (Alopecia)

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Learn whether stress causes hair loss.

Hair Loss and Stress

Is there a correlation between hair loss and stress?

Both emotional and physical stress (such as a serious illness or recovery from surgery) have been associated with hair loss. It is possible that stress induces hormonal changes that are responsible for the hair loss, since hair loss is a known consequence of other hormonal changes due to pregnancy, thyroid disturbances, or even from taking oral contraceptives.

Quick GuideHair Loss: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Hair Loss: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Hair loss facts

  • Hair loss is a very common condition and affects most people at some time in their lives.
  • Hair loss from breakage of the hair shaft is different than hair loss due to decreased hair growth.
  • Androgenetic hair loss is seen in both men and women but is more dramatic in men.
  • Thyroid disease, anemia, protein deficiency, chemotherapy, and low vitamin levels may cause hair loss.
  • Alopecia areata is a form of hair loss produced by the autoimmune destruction of hair follicles in localized areas of skin.
  • Medications indicated for hair regrowth include minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia).
  • Prevention of hair loss includes good hair hygiene, regular shampooing, and good nutrition.
  • Medical health screening for hair loss may include blood tests such as complete blood count (CBC), iron level, vitamin B, thyroid function tests (TFT), and a biopsy of the scalp.

What are causes and risk factors for hair loss?

Because there are many types of hair loss, finding the cause can be challenging. This review will cover the most common causes of hair loss occurring on normal unscarred scalp skin. The medical term for hair loss is alopecia.

Most hair loss is not associated with systemic or internal disease, nor is poor diet a frequent factor. Hair may simply thin as a result of predetermined genetic factors and the overall aging process. Many men and women may notice mild physiologic thinning of hair starting in their 30s and 40s. Life vicissitudes, including illness, emotional trauma, protein deprivation (during strict dieting), and hormonal changes like those in pregnancy, puberty, and menopause may cause hair loss.

Several health conditions, including thyroid disease and iron deficiency anemia, can cause hair loss. While thyroid blood tests and other lab tests, including a complete blood count (CBC), on people who have ordinary hair loss are usually normal, it is important to exclude treatable causes of hair loss.

What types of doctors treat hair loss?

Such basic health screening can be done by a family physician, internist, or gynecologist. Dermatologists are doctors who specialize in problems of skin, hair, and nails and may provide more advanced diagnosis and treatment of hair thinning and loss. Sometimes a scalp biopsy may be necessary.

Although many medications list "hair loss" among their potential side effects, most drugs are not likely to induce hair loss. On the other hand, cancer chemotherapy and immunosuppressive medications commonly produce hair loss. Complete hair loss after chemotherapy usually regrows after six to 12 months.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/13/2016

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