Hair Loss in Men and Women (Alopecia)

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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 from decreased hair growth.
  • Androgenetic hair loss is seen in both men and women but is worse in men.
  • Thyroid disease, anemia, protein deficiency, and low vitamin levels may cause hair loss.
  • Alopecia areata is a relatively common cause of hair loss that usually resolves on its own.
  • 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, and thyroid function tests (TFT).

What are causes of hair loss?

Because there are so many types of scalp hair loss, finding the cause can be challenging. This review will cover the most common causes of hair loss occurring on normal 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 a reversible 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 underlying causes in sudden or severe 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 taken to help in diagnosis of severe or unexplained hair loss.

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 regrows after six to 12 months.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/19/2015

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Hair Loss - Treatments Question: What hair loss treatments have worked well for you?
Hair Loss - Age and Pattern Question: How old were you when you first experienced hair loss? How would you describe or classify the pattern?
Hair Loss - Vitamins Question: What vitamins do you take for hair loss? Have you noticed an improvement since taking them?
Hair Loss - Options Question: What optional treatments have you tried for your hair loss? Are you happy with the results?
Hair Loss - Telogen Effuvium Question: Describe your experience with telogen effuvium, including the suspected cause for your "sudden" hair loss.
Hair Loss - Women Question: If you are a woman, describe your experience with hair loss, including any treatments.
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.