Are You Experiencing Some Hair Loss Here are the Causes
Simply said, hair loss can be devastating, no matter the reason. Here is a brief overview of five common causes of hair loss in women. If any of these sound like they may apply to you, or even if they don’t, but you’ve been experiencing increased hair loss, a visit to your doctor is recommended.
Androgenetic (Androgenic) Alopecia: Hereditary Hair Loss or Female Pattern Hair Loss
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, androgenic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss. It typically occurs as women near or enter menopause, though it can begin much earlier. Both genetic and environmental factors, including declining hormone levels, play a role in the build up of the hormone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), in the hair follicles. DHT causes hair follicles to shrink, producing progressively finer and thinner hair. It also causes the growth stage of hair to decrease and the resting stage to extend, leading to fewer and fewer actively growing follicles.
Genes that signal for production of the hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone) may become more active due to changes in the hormonal environment, and/or receptors for DHT in the follicles become more sensitive. DHT causes the growth stage of hair to shorten and the resting (dormant) stage to extend, so there are less follicles actively growing hair. DHT also causes the hair follicle to shrink, producing progressively finer and thinner hair. Additionally, progesterone is a natural inhibitor of the enzyme (5-alpha reductase) that converts testosterone to DHT, so declining progesterone levels allow more conversion to occur.
Telogen Effluvium: Is Your Hair Going Down the Drain, Literally?
Telogen effluvium can occur when there has been a significant shock to your system, such as surgery, illness, loss of a loved one, drastic weight loss, pregnancy, or from certain medications. Anywhere from one to four months after the stressful event, you may start to notice dramatically more hair in the shower drain or in your hairbrush, or that your hair is suddenly “coming out by the handful.”
When the body experiences extreme stress or significant hormonal changes, an increased number of hair follicles may prematurely enter the ‘resting’ stage (telogen phase), in the body’s effort to conserve energy for vital needs. When the follicles re-enter their growth phase in the following weeks, the old hair is naturally shed. Because of the higher proportion of follicles entering the growth phase all at the same time, a more noticeable amount of hair loss occurs.
The good news? Though recovery can take a few months, the hair will typically regrow once the stressful situation has resolved. Treatment is not usually necessary other than supportive measures such as a healthy diet and natural supplements.
The thyroid gland is vitally important to overall health, as it regulates our entire metabolism. When the thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism), all cellular activity is decreased, body-wide. This includes the rate of cell division within the matrix of the hair follicle, which forms the hair shaft, and results in slower hair growth and thinner, weaker hair. Other symptoms of hypothyroid may include fatigue, depression, dry skin, constipation, brittle nails, weight gain/difficulty losing weight, or sensitivity to cold/heat.
When your body does not have enough iron, either from poor diet, decreased absorption, or loss due to bleeding (e.g., heavy menstruation, giving birth, chronic gastrointestinal bleeding, surgery, or trauma), it is unable to produce sufficient oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in your red blood cells. This is known as iron-deficiency anemia. Without adequate oxygen, your hair follicles (amongst all other cells in your body) can’t function properly, resulting in slower hair growth that is progressively thinner and weaker, and eventually hair loss.
Trichotillomania is the compulsive urge to pull out one’s hair, which can lead to noticeable breakage, hair of varying lengths, and hair loss. The action of pulling has been strongly associated with stress, anxiety, and depression, though other events can also trigger it. The most common age of onset of trichotillomania is during preadolescence, and it affects approximately 3.5 percent of females. Its prevalence is likely higher, though, as individuals may feel embarrassed or alone in their suffering and not seek support. Increased awareness of this condition has grown, with treatment and support groups available which can be life-changing.