It’s not just men who suffer from hair loss. As a matter of fact 40% of all people who suffer from the loss of their hair are women. It is certainly age related and with increasing age the likelihood of hair loss increases as 60% of women older than 70 are affected. You are not alone; female pattern baldness affects about 30 million American women. However, unlike men, women rarely develop a receding front hairline. This article will discuss the causes of hair loss in women and what treatment options are available.
For most women, hair is far more than a bundle of fiber; it’s an expression of style and personality. Research also suggests hair and self-image are closely intertwined. If an occasional “bad hair day” can make a woman feel low, hair loss can be a distressing sight to face every morning in the mirror.
The average scalp has 100,000 hairs. Each follicle produces a single hair that grows at a rate of half an inch per month. After growing for two to six years, the hair rests for awhile before falling out. It is soon replaced with a new hair, and the cycle begins again. At any given time, 85% of the hair is growing, and the remainder is resting or waiting to fall out.
Because resting hairs routinely fall out, most people shed about 50-100 strands every day. You’ll typically find a few in your hairbrush or on your clothes. Abnormal hair loss can occur in several ways. You may notice dramatic clumps falling out when you brush or shampoo. Or the hair may thin slowly over time. The first sign of hair loss that most women notice is often widening of their part or that their ponytail is smaller.
Hair loss in women can be triggered by about 30 different medical conditions, as well as several lifestyle factors. Sometimes no specific cause can be found. As a starting point, hair loss experts recommend testing for thyroid problems and hormone imbalances. In many cases, hair will grow back once the cause is addressed.
Causes of hair loss in women
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck. It produces hormones that regulate many processes throughout the body. If the gland makes too much or too little thyroid hormone, the hair growth cycle may falter and hair loss may occur.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have a chronic hormonal imbalance. The body makes higher levels of androgens than expected. This often causes extra hair to sprout on the face and body, while the hair on the scalp grows thinner. PCOS can also lead to ovulation problems and infertility, acne, and weight gain.
Alopecia areata causes the hair to fall out in upsetting and shocking patches. The culprit is the body’s own immune system, which mistakenly attacks healthy hair follicles. In most cases, the damage is not permanent. The missing patches usually grow back in six months to a year.
When ringworm, a fungus, affects the scalp, the fungus triggers a distinct pattern of hair loss — itchy, round bald patches. Bald areas can appear scaly and red. Ringworm of the scalp is treated with antifungal medication. The fungus is easily spread by direct contact, so family members should be checked for symptoms, too.
Some women may notice their hair seems fuller during pregnancy. That’s thanks to high levels of hormones that keep resting hairs from falling out as they normally would. Alas, the reprieve is short-lived. After childbirth, when hormone levels return to normal, those strands fall out quickly. This can mean a surprising amount of hair loss at one time. It may take up to two years for the hair to return to normal.
A little known side effect of birth control pills is the potential for hair loss. The hormones that suppress ovulation can cause the hair to thin in some women, particularly those with a family history of hair loss. Sometimes hair loss begins when you stop taking the pill. Other drugs linked to hair loss include blood thinners and medicines that treat high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, and depression.
You may lose more than weight with a crash diet. People may notice hair loss 3-6 months after losing more than 15 pounds, but hair should regrow on its own with a healthy diet. Be prepared to shed some locks if your diet is very low in protein or too high in vitamin A.
It’s no myth: wearing cornrows or tight ponytails can irritate the scalp and cause hair to fall out. The same is true of using tight rollers. Let your hair down, and it should grow back normally. Be aware that long-term use of these styles can cause scarring of the scalp and permanent hair loss. So if you have those tight cornrows on your head, you may be choking off the blood supply to the hair follicle resulting in hair loss. Leave the cornrows in the farmer’s field and not on your head.
Hair loss is an infamous side effect of two cancer treatments, chemo and radiation therapy. In their quest to kill cancer cells, both treatments can harm the hair follicles, triggering dramatic hair loss. But the damage is almost always short-lived. Once the therapy is finished, the hair usually grows back.
Extreme physical or emotional stress can cause a sudden shedding of one-half to three-quarters of the hair on your head. Examples include:
Serious illness or major surgery
Trauma involving blood loss
Severe emotional trauma
The shedding may last six to eight months.
Treatment options for hair loss
Minoxidil (Rogaine) is approved by the FDA for female pattern hair loss. It can slow or stop hair loss in most women and may help hair grow back in up to a quarter of those who use it. You have to be patient, as noticeable results usually take three to four months and the product must be used twice a day. The benefits are lost when you stop using it. For women with alopecia areata, corticosteroids can help regrow hair. And if you have an underlying medical problem or a nutritional deficiency, hair usually grows back on its own once that condition is under control.
Devices that emit low-energy laser light may stimulate hair growth to help fight thinning hair. They’re available in some clinics and as hand-held devices to use at home. At least one device has gained FDA approval for both men and women, based on a small study that showed effectiveness in at least some of those who tested it. It took 2-4 months to see the results. The FDA does not require the same rigorous testing for devices as for medicines. The long-term safety and effectiveness are unknown.
Hair transplants involves moving hair to thinning scalp areas from donor sites. The trouble is, female pattern baldness causes thin hair all over, so good donor sites may be limited. The exceptions are women with male pattern baldness or hair loss caused by scarring. There are several doctors in the New Orleans area that perform hair transplants in women.
A quick Internet search will turn up dozens of products intended to stop hair loss or regrow hair. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know whether before and after pictures have been doctored. To evaluate a hair-loss treatment, consumers can check with:
A dermatologist (MD)
The FDA medical devices division
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
When all else fails, you may consider a weave, a hairpiece, a scarf, or a hat to cover bald spots. Good quality wigs are more comfortable than ever — and they rarely have bad hair days. If hair loss interferes with your job or social life or makes you reluctant to leave the house, think about talking with a counselor.
Bottom Line: Women are not immune to hair loss and the psychological impact for women is just as devastating as it is for men. Most women with hair loss can be helped and many can be cured. See your doctor or your dermatologist.
This article was modified from an article posted in WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/ss/slideshow-womens-hair-loss