Hair loss has many causes. No matter the cause, it can be very distressing. I see patients with hair loss from all causes. I will discuss the most common causes of hair loss and when you should seek professional help.
Keep in mind; 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. Hair loss occurs when this cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.
If you have worn your hair in a protective style such as braids or sew in, it may look like you have lost a lot of hair when you comb it out. In fact, it is an accumulation of the 100 hairs a day that you are now able to see.
Hair loss is typically 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. It usually occurs gradually with aging and in predictable patterns — a receding hairline and bald spots in men and thinning hair in women.
- Hormonal changes and medical conditions. A variety of conditions can cause permanent or temporary hair loss, including hormonal changes due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and thyroid problems. Medical conditions include alopecia areata (al-o-PEE-she-uh ar-e-A-tuh), which causes patchy hair loss, scalp infections such as ringworm and a hair-pulling disorder called trichotillomania (trik-o-til-o-MAY-nee-uh).
- Medications and supplements. Hair loss can be a side effect of certain drugs, such as those used for cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, gout and high blood pressure.
- A very stressful event. Many people experience a general thinning of hair several months after a physical or emotional shock such as a major illness or the death of a loved one. This type of hair loss is temporary.
- 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, chemical relaxers, and excessive pressing or flat ironing can cause inflammation of hair follicles that leads to hair loss. If scarring occurs, hair loss could be permanent.
When should you see a professional? I suggest seeing someone if you have any distressing hair loss. I also highly recommend you see someone if you notice sudden or patchy hair loss or more than usual hair loss when combing or washing your hair. Sudden hair loss can signal an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.
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