After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.
Hair Loss Happens
Both men and women can experience hair loss (androgenic alopecia) for a variety of causes, both temporary and permanent. However, it's more common in men. Men typically have between 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on their heads. But it rarely lasts forever.
Some people may use a wig, a particular hairstyle, makeup, hats, or scarves to cover their hair loss. Some people opt for no treatment and let the hair loss run its course. It is normal to lose 50-100 hairs daily, and we do not notice as our hair is also growing back in.
Many years ago I was quite ill with systemic lupus while on chemotherapy medicine, and I lost about a third of my hair. It affected one side of my head more than the other. I promptly bought a wig. My hair gradually started growing back in (much to my delight), and it never happened again.
Cycles of Hair Growth
Our hair has 3 cycles of growth, which include:
- Anagen phase: growing phase that can last from 2-8 years (refers to 85% - 90% of the hair on your head)
- Catagen phase: transition phase when hair follicles shrink (takes 2-3 weeks)
- Telogen phase: a resting phase takes 2-4 months (the hair falls out at the end of this phase)
The shorter hair on the body (eyelashes, arms, legs, or eyebrows) has a short antigen phase, lasting for a month.
Reasons for Hair Loss
Hair loss due to heredity is the most common type of hair loss worldwide, in men, male pattern baldness is the most common type. This type involves a receding hairline or a bald spot at the top of the head.
Female hair loss causes are unclear. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune problem. Telogen effluvium may occur following pregnancy or after a physical or psychological event.
Other reasons for hair loss include:
- Malnutrition and iron deficiency
- Fungal infection
- Lupus erythematosus
- Radiation therapy
- Pulling out of hair
- Certain medications
Signs and Symptoms
There are several symptoms of hair loss, including:
Hair loss in patches (typically in circular patterns)
- Skin lesions
Alopecia areata (mild to medium level) will typically occur in unusual hair loss areas, such as eyebrows, just above the ears, or the back of the head. Male-pattern baldness typically occurs with thinning or baldness at the temples or crown of the head. For females, the hair loss occurs in the frontal and parietal areas.
Another condition with an abnormal hair growth pattern is hypotrichosis. Hair growth tends to be normal at birth, but it sheds soon thereafter. Then, there is sparse, abnormal hair growth with fine, short, and brittle hair that may lack pigmentation. The person is often completely bald by age 25.
Treatments are usually determined by the area affected by hair loss. Unfortunately, treatments are often only partially successful. Some people simply choose to shave their heads as this is fairly popular anyway.
Medications that may help include:
- Minoxidil (Rogaine) - a generic medication for pattern hair loss in men and women
- Dutasteride (Avodart) - medication for an enlarged prostate but used for men
- Finasteride (Proscar and Propecia) also for men
All 3 of these medications are sometimes combined for men.
Steroid injections may be given in affected areas. Some people opt for hair transplant surgery. This surgery involves harvesting hair follicles from one part of the body (usually the back of the head) and transplanting them to the donor site. The surgery is usually for male pattern baldness. This surgery can be used for eyebrows, eyelashes, beard hair, chest, or public hair.
Hair loss is a fairly common occurrence. There is little evidence that any dietary supplement is effective in restoring hair growth. There is a large market for dietary supplements, especially for biotin (vitamin B7), but really no medical proof that they work.
While there is a lot of research about hair loss, there is not a great deal of effective treatment at this time. There is a better understanding as to what causes hair loss, so hopefully, treatments will happen in the near future.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2021 Pamela Oglesby