Causes of hair loss and baldness

There are multiple causes of hair loss. It is normal for all of us to lose a few hairs every day when we wash, brush or comb our locks. People typically lose about 100 hairs a day. This usually doesn’t cause noticeable thinning of scalp hair because new hair is growing in at the same time.

The most common form of balding usually does not happen overnight, but gradually over a number of years, mostly noticeable by a receding hairline and/or around the crown area. 50% of men start balding as they get older and fewer women are affected by it.

However, hair loss can occur in several ways, depending on what the cause is. It can happen suddenly or gradually, affecting only the scalp area and sometimes the whole body. Also, it could be a temporary or a permanent condition.

The signs and symptoms of hair loss

A receding hairline

This is the most common type of hair loss, affecting mostly men, when hair gradually stops growing at the temples and above the forehead, creating an M-shape pattern. A receding hairline in men can start any time after the end of puberty, and usually by the time they reach their late 30s. In women, it can create a V-shape in the middle of the head, known as a widow’s peak.

Male- and female-pattern baldness

The gradual hair loss patterns of baldness for men and women differ. With male pattern baldness, hair loss typically occurs on the top and front of the head. With female pattern baldness, thinning occurs on the top and crown of the head. This thinning in women often starts as a widening of the center hair part that leaves the front hairline unaffected.

Round or patchy bald spots

Some people experience smooth, coin-sized bald spots. This type of hair loss usually affects only the scalp, but can sometimes also occur in beards or eyebrows. In some cases, your skin may become itchy or painful before the hair falls out.

Sudden hair loss

The signs are handfuls of hair coming out when combing or washing your hair or even after gentle tugging. This type of hair loss usually causes overall hair thinning, and is normally due to a physical or emotional shock. In most cases the hair will eventually grow back.

Overall body hair loss

The loss of hair all over the body is usually caused by severe medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer. The hair usually grows back.

Scaly bald patches

Alopecia Areata, also known as spot baldness, is a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body. Burning or stinging before sudden hair loss may be experienced. It may be accompanied by broken hair, redness, swelling and, at times, oozing. This could be due to psoriasis or fungal infection on your scalp – or it could even be a sign of ringworm. Consult with your medical doctor.

Causes of hair loss or baldness

Hair loss occurs when either the normal cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted, or when the hair follicle is destroyed.

There are various factors that can cause these conditions:

Genetic or family history

A family history of balding in either of your parent’s families is the most common cause of hair loss, causing male- or female-pattern baldness. These hereditary conditions usually occur gradually with aging and in predictable patterns, such as a receding hairline and/or bald spots in men and thinning hair in women. Although there are many treatments on the market that may work temporarily, this type of hair loss can not be prevented.

Hormonal changes

A variety of conditions can cause permanent or temporary hair loss, including hormonal changes due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and thyroid problems. Consult a medical doctor to determine the exact cause and possible treatment.

Medical conditions

  • Alopecia areata (al-o-PEE-she-uh ar-e-A-tuh), which causes patchy hair loss.
  • Scalp infections caused by ringworm, psoriasis or fungal infection.
  • Hair-pulling disorder called Trichotillomania (trik-o-til-o-MAY-nee-uh).
  • Illnesses such as diabetes and lupus.

Consult a medical practitioner for possible treatment.

Medical treatments and medications

Hair loss could be a side effect caused by certain drugs, such as those used for cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, gout and high blood pressure. The hair may not grow back the same as it was after radiation therapy to the head.

A very stressful event or trauma

Many people experience a general thinning of hair several months after an emotional shock. Physical shock, such as surgery or a severe accident can also cause this. This type of hair loss is temporary.

Significant weight loss

Severe weight loss over a short period of time is also known to cause hair loss. It is best to monitor your weight loss with an experienced health practitioner.

Certain hairstyles and treatments

Excessive hairstyling or hairstyles that pull your hair tight, such as pigtails or cornrows, can cause a type of hair loss called Traction Alopecia. Hot oil hair treatments and permanents can cause inflammation of the hair follicles that also lead to hair loss. If scarring occurs, hair loss could be permanent.

Prevention

Most baldness is caused by genetics (male-pattern baldness and female-pattern baldness). This type of hair loss is irreversable and can not be prevented.

Tips to help combat preventable types of hair loss:

Dont’s:

  • Avoid tight hairstyles, such as braids, buns or ponytails.
  • Avoid compulsively twisting, rubbing or pulling your hair or scratching your scalp.
  • Avoid harsh treatments such as hot rollers, curling irons, hot oil treatments and permanents.
  • Avoid Constant heating & drying. Don’t subject your hair to frequent, constant heating and drying procedures. Heat weakens hair proteins, leading to weakness and fragility that causes hair loss.
  • Avoid medications that could cause hair loss as a side effect. Investigate alternative therapies that can help to avoid these medications.
  • Protect your hair from harsh sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light.
  • Avoid smoking. Smoking cigarettes reduces the amount of blood that flows to the scalp, causing a reduction in hair growth.
  • Reduce alcoholic beverages.
  • Avoid low protein diets.

Do’s:

  • Treat your hair gently when washing and brushing. A wide-toothed comb may help prevent pulling out hair.
  • If you are undergoing chemotherapy, ask your doctor about a cooling cap. It can help reduce the risk of losing hair during chemotherapy.
  • Eat foods rich in B vitamins (especially vitamin B12), zinc and iron (such as breakfast cereals, liver and apricots) and silica (bananas – and beer in moderation!) are especially good for hair health.
  • De-stress. Medical research shows evidence that links stress to hair loss. Meditate and take time out in nature.
  • Take care of your health. Watch what you eat and take time for physical activity every day.
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