While the average person loses up to 200 hairs per day, many men and women experience hair loss on a much greater scale. The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) estimates that approximately 530 million American men and women have signs of shedding, thinning, or balding. Fortunately, if you are suffering from hair loss, understanding the reasons why may prevent further loss and help with regrowth.
What Causes Hair Loss in Men and Women?
A number of conditions can lead to hair loss in men and in women, from genetics to environmental factors to stress, over-styling, and beyond.
Medical Conditions and Medications
When a person presents with a medical condition like hypothyroidism, lupus, poly cystic ovarian syndrome, cancer, anemia (iron deficiency), alopecia areata and psoriasis, hair loss can be an unwanted side effect. Pregnancy even causes hormonal changes that might lead to excessive shedding and thinning.
Still, loss can be prevented and hair can grow back once the medical condition has been managed or cured. And for those who are pregnant, they will often see regrowth after they've given birth and their hormones have stabilized.
While medical conditions can lead to hair loss, so can the medications used to treat them. In some cases, medical problems are not responsible for hair loss, rather the medications that are to blame. Medications that can lead to hair loss include birth control pills, anti-depressants, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids and more.
If you are prescribed a medication and are worried about hair loss, ask your doctor if that is a possible side effect.
Genetics and Aging
Hair loss in men has been thought to be passed down from the mother's side, making it hereditary. However, according to new research, hair loss can also be traced in some instances to the father's side as well. If baldness occurs on both sides of the family, 4 out of 7 people will inherit it. If you're a man worried about losing your hair, take a look at the older men in your family and see how things are progressing. However, most people--men and women alike--will lose hair as part of the natural aging process as well.
Sudden hair loss or hair that comes out in clumps, often indicates that neither genetics nor aging are the cause of hair loss. Should either occur, a check-up by your doctor is warranted.
Stress and Environmental Factors
Yes, hair can get stressed – so stressed in fact that it falls out. Much of this is attributable to too much styling, overuse of hair products, excessive heat or chemicals, hard brushing, very tight braiding (like cornrows) and always wearing it in the same style. For example, parting hair in the exact same place for decades can lead to baldness in and around the part. Dramatic weight loss, surgery, and even taking too much Vitamin A, can affect hair.
Sometimes the hair loss won't occur for weeks or even months after the trauma to the hair and scalp, so you may not associate it with one specific action. If you are concerned and cannot think of any stressor or environmental factor that may have contributed to it, seek medical advice.
You may not be what you eat, but what you eat or don't eat may be contributing to your hair loss. The best way to keep a good head of hair is eating a healthy diet. Diets that lack essential nutrients, fatty acids, and protein are a recipe for shedding and thinning hair.
In fact, the Mayo Clinic suggests that a deficiency in fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 can lead to hair loss if not regulated after four months. Though it may take months for restoration, fuller hair can be achieved by incorporating vitamins A, B, C, and E. Calcium and magnesium are also needed.
Symptoms of Hair Loss
Losing up to 200 hairs per day is common, but there are symptoms you can look for to determine if you are losing more than normal. They include:
- An unusual scalp (dry, red, scabs, etc.)
- The appearance of bald patches and spots
- Clumps of hair fall out after grooming, or spontaneously
- Hairline recedes
- Hair feels and appears thinner than normal
- Scalp itches or is painful
Treating Hair Loss
Determining the underlying cause of your hair loss can help prevent further damage and may return hair to its former glory (or at least close to). For those in advanced stages, there are a number of surgical approaches to hair restoration, including transplantation.