Know the basics
What is hair loss?
Hair loss can affect just your scalp or your entire body. It can be the result of heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions or medications. Anyone — men, women, and children — can experience hair loss.
Hair loss can appear in many different ways, depending on what’s causing it. It can come on suddenly or gradually and affect just your scalp or your whole body. Some types of hair loss are temporary, and others are permanent.
How common is hair loss?
Hair loss is extremely common and can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of hair loss?
The common symptoms of hair loss are:
- Gradual thinning on top of head: this is the most common type of hair loss, affecting both men and women as they age. In men, hair often begins to recede from the forehead in a line that resembles the letter M. Women typically retain the hairline on the forehead but have a broadening of the part in their hair.
- Circular or patchy bald spots: some people experience smooth, coin-sized bald spots. This type of hair loss usually affects just the scalp, but it sometimes occurs in beards or eyebrows. In some cases, your skin may become itchy or painful before the hair falls out.
- Sudden loosening of hair: a physical or emotional shock can cause hair to loosen. Handfuls of hair may come out when combing or washing your hair or even after gentle tugging. This type of hair loss usually causes overall hair thinning and not bald patches.
- Full-body hair loss: Some conditions and medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer, can result in the loss of hair all over your body. The hair usually grows back.
- Patches of scaling that spread over the scalp: this is a sign of ringworm. It may be accompanied by a broken hair, redness, swelling and, at times, oozing.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Emotional distressed by hair loss;
- Sudden or patchy hair loss or more than usual hair loss when combing or washing your or your child’s hair. Sudden hair loss can signal an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Know the causes
What causes hair loss?
The exact cause of hair loss is currently not fully understood. However, it’s usually related to one or more of the following factors:
- Family history (heredity): the most common cause of hair loss is a hereditary condition called male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness, which results in a predictable manner — a receding hairline and bald spots in men and thinning hair in women. Heredity also affects the age at which you begin to lose hair, the rate of hair loss and the extent of baldness.
- Hormonal changes: hormonal changes and imbalances can cause temporary hair loss. This could be due to pregnancy, childbirth or the onset of menopause. Hormone levels are also affected by the thyroid gland, so thyroid problems may cause hair loss.
- Medical conditions: hair loss can also be caused by scalp infections, other skin disorders, hair-pulling disorder.
- Medications: hair loss can be caused by drugs used for cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, high blood pressure and birth control. Intake of too much vitamin A may cause hair loss as well.
- Other causes: a physical or emotional shock, certain hairstyles and treatments can also cause hair loss.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for hair loss?
There are many risk factors for hair loss, such as:
- Family history;
- Poor nutrition;
- Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and lupus;
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is hair loss diagnosed?
If you suspect that you might have a hair loss, your healthcare provider will first ask you about your symptoms and family history health condition. Then he/ she can recommend you to undergo a few tests and procedure to diagnose, including:
- Blood test: this may help uncover medical conditions related to hair loss, such as thyroid disease.
- Pull test: your doctor gently pulls several dozen hairs to see how many come out in order to determine the stage of the shedding process.
- Scalp biopsy: your doctor scrapes samples from the skin or from a few hairs plucked from the scalp to examine the hair roots to investigate for infection.
- Light microscopy. your doctor uses a special instrument to examine hairs trimmed at their bases to uncover possible disorders of the hair shaft.
How is hair loss treated?
Treatments for some types of hair loss are available. However, some conditions are permanent, while some are temporary. Depends on your condition, your doctor will recommend you for medications, surgery, laser therapy, wigs or hairpieces as treatment. The goal is to promote hair growth, slow or hide hair loss.
If your hair loss is caused by an underlying disease, then treatment for the disease is required. If a certain medication is causing the hair loss, your doctor may advise you to stop using it for some time. There are medications available to treat pattern baldness are Minoxidil (Rogaine) and Finasteride (Propecia). Talk to your doctor before attempting any medications.
In the most common type of permanent hair loss, only the top of the head is affected. Hair transplant or restoration surgery can make the most of the hair you have left. During this procedure, your surgeon removes tiny plugs of skin, each containing a few hairs, from the back or sides of your scalp. He or she then implants the plugs into the bald sections of your scalp. You may be asked to take a hair loss medication before and after surgery to improve results. Surgical procedures to treat baldness are expensive and can be painful. Possible risks include infection and scarring.
Wigs and hairpieces
This can serve as an alternative to medical treatment or if you don’t respond to treatment.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hair loss?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hair loss:
- Have a nutritionally balanced diet.
- Avoid tight hairstyles, such as braids, buns or ponytails.
- Avoid compulsively twisting, rubbing or pulling your hair.
- Treat your hair gently when washing and brushing. Use a wide-toothed comb to prevent pulling out hair.
- Avoid harsh treatments such as hot rollers, curling irons, hot oil treatments, and permanents.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Hair loss. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/basics/definition/con-20027666. Accessed September 21, 2016.
Understanding Hair Loss -- the Basics. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/understanding-hair-loss-basics#1. Accessed September 21, 2016.
Hair Loss in Men and Women (Alopecia). http://www.medicinenet.com/hair_loss/article.htm. Accessed September 21, 2016.
Review Date: September 28, 2016 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019