- Many conditions, diseases, and improper hair care can result in hair loss.
- The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary thinning or baldness.
- While daily shedding is normal, people who notice their hair shedding in large amounts after combing or brushing, or whose hair becomes thinner or falls out, should consult a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS
Other causes of hair loss, some of which are temporary, include:
- Excessive or improper use of styling products such as perms, dyes, gels, relaxers or sprays can cause weathering or hair breakage.
- Hairstyles that pull on the hair, like ponytails and braids.
- Shampooing, combing, or brushing hair too much or too hard, or pulling it out.
- A variety of diseases, such as thyroid disease.
- Following childbirth, major surgery, a high fever or severe infection, or even the flu.
- Inadequate protein or iron in the diet or eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia.
- Certain prescription drugs (including blood thinners, high-dose vitamin A and medicines for arthritis, depression, gout, heart problems, and high blood pressure) in some people.
- Use of birth control pills (usually in women with an inherited tendency for hair thinning).
- Hormonal imbalances, especially in women.
- Ringworm of the scalp, a contagious fungal infection most common in children.
- Some cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
- Alopecia areata, a type of hair loss that affects all ages, which causes hair to fall out in round patches.
PSYCHOSOCIAL IMPACT OF HAIR LOSS
While the physical symptoms of hair loss can be traumatic for patients, the psychosocial impact of hair loss can be just as severe.
- Hair loss can cause dramatic and devastating emotions in patients that can negatively impact quality of life. Studies on the psychosocial impact of hair loss have found patients’ self-esteem, body image, and self-confidence to be negatively impacted.1,2
- Known psychosocial complications include depression, low self-esteem, altered self-image, and less frequent and enjoyable social engagement. The negative quality of life may be worse in women due to societal pressure to be attractive. Treatment from a dermatologist should be sought in order to improve quality of life.1,2
TREATMENT OF HAIR LOSS
- Topical minoxidil (for men and women) and oral finasteride (for men only) have been shown to help in the regrowth of hair or to slow hair loss. Hair loss caused by diseases such as thyroid disease may be reversed with treatment of the underlying disease.
- Topical or injectable cortisone medications have been shown to accelerate regrowth of hair in some types of hair loss.
- Topical or oral estrogen, or other female-specific hormones, are sometimes prescribed for women experiencing hair loss.
- Hair transplantation is a permanent form of hair replacement utilizing dermatologic surgery that involves moving some existing scalp hair to bald or thinning parts. It may benefit men with male pattern baldness, some women with thinning hair and people who have lost some but not all hair from burns or other scarring injuries to the scalp, eyebrows or eyelashes.
For more information on hair loss, visit the Hair Loss section of Dermatology A to Z.
1. Tucker P. Bald is beautiful?: the psychosocial impact of alopecia areata. J Health Psychol 2009;14:142-51.
2. Cartwright T, Endean N, Porter A. Illness perceptions, coping and quality of life in patients with alopecia. Br J Dermatol 2009;160:1034-39.