Hair Loss - Age and Pattern

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How old were you when you first experienced hair loss? How would you describe or classify the pattern?

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How do physicians classify hair loss?

There are numerous ways to categorize hair loss. One must first examine the scalp to determine if the hair loss is due to the physical destruction and loss of hair follicles (scarring alopecia). If the scalp appears perfectly normal with plenty of empty hair follicles, this is called non-scarring hair loss. On the other hand, the follicles are permanently destroyed in scarring hair loss. Non-scarring hair loss can also be seen in situations where there is physical or chemical damage to the hair shaft resulting in breakage. Occasionally, it may be necessary to do a biopsy of the scalp to distinguish these conditions. Sometimes, a physician may pull a hair to examine the appearance of the hair shaft as well as the percentage of growing hairs (anagen phase). This article will concentrate on the non-scarring types of hair loss.

Patchy hair loss

Some conditions produce small areas of hair loss, while others affect large areas of the scalp. Common causes of patchy hair loss are

  • alopecia areata (small circular or coin size patches of scalp baldness that usually grow back within months),
  • traction alopecia (thinning from tight braids or ponytails),
  • trichotillomania (the habit of twisting or pulling hair out),
  • tinea capitis (fungal infection).
Return to Hair Loss

See what others are saying

Comment from: Sharon, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: December 29

I am a 36 year old African American woman. I started to notice hair loss after a very stressful and traumatic illness. To make matters worse I went on a crash diet not long after the illness where I lost 40 pounds in about two months. Last, I was using chemical relaxers and processing my hair quite a bit. After relaxing my hair one night, I woke up in the middle of the night with my scalp (near my temples) inflamed. It was the worst case of itching I had ever experienced and I scratched all night long. I awoke the next day to find a small nickel sized bald spot on my temple (with no hair whatsoever) and the rest of my hair on the temples having broken off severely. I had slept the night in a very tight ponytail and I know scratching the already tight hair was the culprit. So I went natural. I cut off all of my relaxed hair and now I use no chemicals or heat and I wear a small afro. Two years later my hair at my temples would recede and grow back and back and forth. The hair at my temples now is short and fine. And they just won't grow long. What worries me is the V shape of the receding. It's just like the shape of a man with male pattern balding. That frightens me. I am getting whiskers now and maybe my testosterone is kicked up but I have removed stress out of my life and I eat healthy but I cannot stop the recession. I use emu oil, saw palmetto, castor oil, coconut oil and Mane and Tail leave in conditioner. The rest of my hair is growing and very healthy but the temple area, it seems nothing will help it. It is so evident now that it is noticeable to many people and it is depressing me.

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Comment from: Lin, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: December 30

My mother has very thin hair from Swedish side of family. My hair loss seemed to begin with menopause at age 50, mostly on top, stringy bangs now. Rogaine has not helped, I take vitamin B12; it mostly helps nails. If my hair was not as coarse as it is it would look as thin as my mother's was. My father had thick curly hair but very bald at a very young age. I am seriously looking into injections, and have been looking into stem cell transplant; I intend to meet with my dermatologist to discuss options. I have had some years of a lot of stress when hair seemed to look worse, I do believe stress causes a lot of medical and psychological problems.

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