What is hair loss?
Hair Loss (Alopecia) Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
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Hair loss is a condition in which plenty of hair strands fall out constantly. It is excessive shedding caused by several possible factors. Males and females of varying ages can experience hair loss. It can be debilitating to a person’s mental and emotional health. Confidence and self-esteem can easily be lost if you have hair loss.
Human hair has three stages in its life cycle: growing, resting, and shedding stages. Hair loss is a normal part of the shedding stage, and everyone can safely lose 50-100 strands daily. Continued hair loss also comes as we age because hair may not have the health it once had when we were younger. The rate of growth also slows down as we age.
Excessive hair loss may happen due to illness, trauma, and physical and emotional stress. These events may influence the increase of hair loss in the hair cycle's shedding phase. Once you experience less of these illnesses, trauma, and stress, your hair goes back to normal growth, and excessive shedding will come to a halt.
Sometimes, hair loss can be brought about by certain underlying illnesses. Hair loss becomes a symptom of hypothyroidism, nutritional imbalances, and iron deficiency anaemia. We’ll tackle more about these conditions later in this article.
Symtoms of hair loss
Here are the symptoms you may likely experience with hair loss:
- A receding hairline
- Hair parting that slowly widens
- Bald patches
- Scarring patches on the scalp
- Overall hair thinning
- Sudden handfuls of hair loss
If you are experiencing hair loss simultaneously with other medical symptoms, then this may be a sign of another underlying medical condition. Talk to your doctor once this happens.
Associated conditions to hair loss
If you are losing more hair than average or have noticed thinning, it could be caused by an underlying condition, such as:
This temporary condition is characterised by greater-than-normal hair loss, with generalized thinning in the entire head. Telogen effluvium starts after an especially stressful life event such as severe trauma, surgery, or stress. This hair loss condition is also commonly linked to new moms who have just given birth, due to the fluctuating hormone levels as their bodies recover from pregnancy and childbirth.
Male and female pattern baldness
These terms are used to describe common hair loss in men and women medically.
Male pattern baldness is a hereditary condition characterised by receding hair at the sides of the head, progressing to a thinning top, until finally, a bald spot appears in the middle. Only the back and sides of the head retain some hair, which may also thin as a man ages.
Female pattern baldness is similarly a hereditary condition that causes a woman’s hair to generally thin. The condition is mostly seen in women during and after their menopause stage. It is also known as androgenic alopecia or androgenetic alopecia.
There are various ways to manage these conditions, such as wigs and topical medications. More aggressive treatment can be done, especially for males near total baldness. Scalp surgery can be an option. However, several people, primarily men, choose not to treat this hair loss.
Anaemia is typically caused by iron deficiency in the blood. It affects both women and men, although more women are at risk due to hormone changes and blood loss from monthly periods. Symptoms include fatigue, pale skin, dizziness, cold extremities, frequent headaches, and hair loss. Your doctor can diagnose this condition via a blood test. Treatment consists of taking iron supplements, getting enough rest, and adding iron-rich foods to your diet.
This hair problem is the result of an over-reactive immune system. Your body attacks hair follicles because it mistakes them for a foreign invader. The result is unpredictable patterns of hair loss that may occur suddenly. Steroid injections and topical creams help treat alopecia areata.
High vitamin A consumption and hair loss
Vitamin A toxicity may occur when you ingest large doses of preformed vitamin A from supplements and some medications. It can cause excessive hair loss, as well as a host of symptoms including nausea, dizziness, and frequent headaches. The condition may even lead to comatose or eventual death. If you think you’re ingesting vitamin A in large amounts, speak to your doctor especially if you were prescribed vitamin A pills.
Vitamin B deficiency and hair loss
Low amounts of vitamin B could mean a problem with your red blood cells. They don’t receive enough nutrients to support oxygen distribution throughout the body. As a result, nausea, fatigue, nerve problems, difficulty in concentrating, and hair loss all become evident. Your doctor may prescribe vitamin B supplements or dietary changes to include more vitamin B-rich foods like fish, non-citrus fruits, starchy vegetables, and meat.
Low protein consumption and hair loss
Protein is among the building blocks of body tissues and hair. This is why low protein consumption could lead to hair loss, stunted hair growth, and accelerated hair damage. This condition may happen if you start a low protein diet.
Hypothyroidism and hair loss
An underactive thyroid gland produces less of the hormone thyroxine, which is needed to control the body’s metabolism rate. Hence, hypothyroidism may cause symptoms such as hair loss, weight gain, and overall fatigue. A blood test can determine if you have hypothyroidism.
Weight loss and hair loss
Losing lots of weight dramatically at one point in time can take a toll on your hair’s health as well. It is a huge change in the body that can be interpreted by your hair as stress.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is typically a problem with hormonal imbalance in the body. The condition usually manifests in women and presents symptoms such as hair loss, weight gain, menstrual cycle problems or irregularities, and infertility. Doctors usually advise dietary changes, birth control pills, and increased physical activity to combat the condition.
Chemotherapy and hair loss
Chemotherapy is a classic treatment course for patients with cancer. It involves receiving a large number of strong medications that kills rapidly dividing cells. These medications are usually targeted at cancer cells, but they can also kill healthy normal cells. Hair cells are not spared of this. Hair loss on the head and body and baldness are all well-linked to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Now, certain medications may cause hair to fall. These are:
- Blood thinners such as aspirin
- Anabolic steroids
Trichotillomania is another possible cause of hair loss. This is a mental health condition characterised by aggressive and compulsive hair-pulling.
There could be more medical conditions that cause alopecia. Talk to your doctor if you experience other medical conditions and lose plenty of hair simultaneously.