The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. Alopecia may be localized or diffuse. Patients may notice hair shedding, poor hair quality, hair thinning or bald areas. There may be associated scalp disease or scarring with loss of the hair follicles that support hair growth. Scalp hair loss seems to provoke more distress than many severe skin conditions. Unfortunately, hair loss may not be easy to remedy. There are many causes of hair loss and the following describes some of the many causes of hair loss:
- Hereditary thinning or baldness (also called male or female pattern baldness and androgenetic alopecia). This is the most common cause of hair loss, and affects millions of people in the United States. The causes for this condition is unknown, however there may be a genetic reason for it.
- Alopecia Areata. This condition describes round bald patches appearing suddenly, most often affecting the scalp. However alopecia areata may affect any hair-bearing areas of the skin. It may occur at any age, including in childhood. Alopecia areata is considered to be one of the autoimmune disorders, where your own immune system rejects the hair for unknown reasons. Like many other health problems, it sometimes starts after a stressful event. Alopecia areata itself may be emotionally very distressing.
- Scarring alopecia. There are numerous causes for scarring alopecia, such as central centrifugal alopecia, lupus, and frontal fibrosing alopecia.
- Underlying medical conditions. There are dozens of conditions, including thyroid disease and anemia that may cause hair loss. By treating the diseases, hair loss often can be stopped or reversed.
- Stressful life events. Significant hair loss can occur after an illness, such as major surgery, high fever and severe infection. In addition, after given birth, some women may also have noticeable hair loss. Even stressful events, such as losing a parent or getting a divorce, may cause hair loss. This type of hair loss is best categorized as telogen effluvium. This type of hair loss is often temporary. In a few months after the stressful event has passed, patients will see their hair re-grow.
- Medications. Some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, my cause hair loss.
- Ringworm of the scalp. This cause of hair loss is contagious, and most commonly found in children. It requires oral treatment and without effective treatment, ringworm may cause balding.
- Trichotillomania. This condition causes people to repeatedly pull out their own hair. Patients often feel a sense of urgency to pull out their hair on their scalp, eyelashes, nose hairs, or eyebrows.
- Diets. Patients who have lost a significant amount of weight, or gone on fad diets (not enough protein in the diet, high intake of vitamin A, not getting enough iron, or very restrictive caloric intake) may experience hair loss. Eating a healthy, balanced diet allows the body essential building blocks to grow hair.
- Prescription medications. Certain medications, such as blood thinners, high doses of vitamin A, birth control pills, and anabolic steroids may cause hair loss.
- Hair care. Frequent blow drying, straightening, bleaching, perms, improper use of dyes, gels, relaxers and hair sprays may cause the hair to break. In addition, certain hairstyles such as pulling your hair back tightly in a ponytail, brushing wet hair, and too much shampooing, can damage hair. We recommend limiting use of these products and being as gentle as possible with your hair.