Hair loss is an embarrassing reality for many adults, both men and women. Dealing with hair loss can be a complicated process because it is important to determine what the underlying cause is for your hair loss. Hair frequently has a genetic component, with male pattern baldness being prevalent among older men; however, women can also suffer from female pattern baldness, a rarer genetic condition. Hair loss can also happen due to disease, infection, hormone changes, or nutritional deficiencies.
Whether you are dealing with the early stages of hair loss or you are in an advanced stage of hair loss, getting the information you need to find the cause of your hair loss will help you define what treatment would be best for your situation.
Is It Male Pattern Baldness?
If you are a man, you might be at risk for male pattern baldness due to the realities of genetics. The chromosome pair that determines a person’s sex is XX for women and XY for men. As a man, you received a Y chromosome from your father and an X chromosome from your mother. The genetic link for male pattern baldness is found on the X chromosome. Since you have only one X chromosome, if you inherited the recessive trait on the X chromosome linked to baldness, it will be expressed because there is no dominant, non-baldness gene to suppress it since the other chromosome in that pair isn’t an X (like women) but a Y. Take a look at the men in your mother’s family to see if baldness is common; if it is, you are likely to be affected as you get older, too.
Is It Female Pattern Baldness?
Female pattern baldness also has a genetic link, but it is not easily linked back to either the father or the mother as both parents can contribute to the condition. Female pattern baldness also presents in appearance differently from male pattern baldness. In men, the pattern includes a receding hairline, or a circular area on the back of the head that loses hair and grows larger, until most of the top of the head is bald. For women, the pattern isn’t quite so straightforward; most women experience thinning and hair loss over the entire scalp rather than in the key areas that men experience. In rare scenarios, a small percentage of women may experience hair loss in a pattern similar to men.
What Else Causes Baldness?
Baldness that has a sudden onset, with patches of hair falling out at once or rapidly thinning hair all over the scalp in a short period of time may have a medical cause that should be thoroughly investigated. Certain infections can cause hair loss as can reactions to medications or side effects of medications, such as inhaled steroids used to treat asthma and other lung diseases. An underlying thyroid disease can impact hair growth, causing loss of hair. Hormonal imbalances or sudden hormonal changes like those that happen during pregnancy and after childbirth, as well as during and after menopause, can cause hair loss. If you experience sudden hair loss or thinning, a visit to your primary care physician is a good first step to determine if there is an underlying cause.
What Prevention Options and Treatments are Available for Hair Loss?
There are different courses of prevention and treatment for hair loss. Understanding the cause of your hair loss will help you and your health care team determine which strategy is best for your unique situation.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
For women dealing with hair loss due to hormonal changes, such as childbirth, postpartum, or menopause, hormone replacement therapy may be attempted to stop or reverse the hair loss. Underlying thyroid disease may also impact your body’s natural ability to produce progesterone and estrogen, the two hormones that are replaced in hormone replacement therapy. This therapy can ease menopausal symptoms but does have potential risks that should be discussed with your physician.
For patients with thinning hair, the use of a prescription or over-the-counter regrowth treatment may offer some hair regrowth. This treatment does take several months to work and may not work for every patient.
Hair transplant treatment uses healthy hair follicles from healthy areas of growth on the scalp and transplants them to the areas in need of new follicles for hair growth. This procedure is done under local anesthesia. Hair that is transplanted may fall out initially; however, the healthy follicle that remains will grow new hair. Hair growth may take anywhere from three months to nine months.
You don’t have to suffer through hair loss alone. If you have a known genetic family history of male or female pattern baldness, or if you have noticed that your hair is thinning and becoming weaker, take action now to preserve your hair and reverse the tide of hair loss.