Causes of Hair Loss
There are many potential causes for hair loss. Please select from the menu below to learn more about these conditions.
(Immune System Imbalance)
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition. The immune system is the body’s natural defence system, which helps protect it from infection by bacteria and viruses. But in the case of Alopecia Areata, it damages the hair follicles instead. It is not clear exactly why this happens. Fortunately, the hair follicles are not permanently damaged, and in many cases the hair grows back within a few months. About one or two people in 1,000 in the UK have Alopecia Areata. The condition can develop at any age but it’s most common in young people aged between 15 and 29. 6 out of 10 people with Alopecia get it under the age of 20. It affects men and women equally.
Symptoms of Alopecia
Some of the main symptoms of alopecia areata include the following:
- You may have patchy hair loss that appears as small, round areas of baldness. These areas are most likely to be on your scalp, although they may also occur on your eyebrows, eyelashes or beard.
- Usually the exposed skin will look smooth and healthy, but occasionally it can be red or scaly.
- You may have short, broken hairs at the edges of the bald patches. These are called exclamation hairs and are tapered at the end nearest to your head.
Causes of Alopecia
It is not fully known why some people develop Alopecia Areata. It is an autoimmune disease, which means your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your hair follicles. This reaction prevents new hair from forming and causes existing hair to fall out.
About 1 in 5 people with Alopecia Areata have a family member who also has the condition. This suggests that Alopecia Areata may be genetic even though there could be other factors that can play a part. If you have another condition that involves your immune system such as eczema or are prone to allergies, you may be more at risk and have an increased chanced of developing Alopecia Areata.
Female pattern baldness (also called Androgenetic Alopecia) is the most common type of hair loss. This is a genetic condition that occurs in one out of five women. This hair loss can come from either parent’s side of the family. This condition happens when hair that falls out is no longer replaced. This is normally a change in thinning hair rather than hair falling out. Women of all ages, from puberty to post-menopausal can be affected by Androgenetic Alopecia. The cause of hair loss in Androgenetic Alopecia is a chemical called DIHYDROTESTOSTERONE, or DHT, which is made from androgens, the male hormones that all men and women produce, by the action of an enzyme called 5-Alpha Reductase. People with a lot of this enzymes produces more DHT, which when in excess can cause the hair follicles to make thinner hair, until eventually they stop completely.
Traction or Scarring Alopecia
Traction Alopecia is a type of hair loss which occurs when the hair follicles get damaged due to extensive tightening of the hair for prolonged periods. The hair follicles get completely destroyed, preventing hair growth. This type of hair loss is more common among women who tie their hair into very tight ponytails, knots or braids. This increases the tension in the hair giving rise to hair breakage, leading to hair loss on the front or sides of the scalp. Other causes that lead to traction Alopecia is over processing of the hair with certain thermal or chemical treatments such as dyes, bleaches etc.
- Anagen and Telogen
Anagen effluvium is the sudden hair loss resulting from exposure to radiation or certain chemicals. This type of hair loss is mostly seen during or after chemotherapy or radiotherapy applied to cancer patients. In these hair loss cases, the hair skips the resting stage of its growth cycle, and a sudden hair loss occurs within 1 to 3 weeks following the exposure. The hair loss caused by chemotherapy is mostly reversible, while the hair loss caused by radiotherapy in some patients is irreversible.
This type of hair loss occurs in response to certain stress events. A sudden and severe stress causes an increase in the amount of the hairs being shed. The source of stress resulting in hair loss can be events such as childbirth, pregnancy termination, starting or stopping the use of oral contraceptive drugs, premenopausal period, drugs used in diet regimens, some emotional stresses etc. These events will cause the hair to stay in the resting phase for about only 3 months. Then, a large amount of hair will be shed.
Trichotillomania is a condition where a person feels compelled to pull their hair out. They may pull out the hair on their head or in other places, such as their eyebrows or eyelashes. Trichotillomania is an impulse-control disorder (a psychological condition where you are unable to stop yourself carrying out a particular action). You will experience an intense urge to pull your hair out and growing tension until you do. After pulling out your hair, you will feel a sense of relief. Pulling out hair on the head leaves bald patches(alopecia). Trichotillomania can cause negative feelings, such as guilt. You may also feel embarrassed or ashamed about pulling your hair out, and may try to deny it or cover it up. Sometimes, trichotillomania can make you feel unattractive and can lead to low self-esteem.
What causes trichotillomania?
It is not known what causes trichotillomania, but there are several theories. Some experts think hair pulling is a type of addiction. The more you pull your hair out, the more you want to keep doing it. Trichotillomania may be a reflection of a mental health problem. Psychological and behavioural theories suggest that hair pulling may be a way of relieving stress or anxiety. In some cases, trichotillomania may be a form of self-harm, where you deliberately injure yourself as a way of seeking temporary relief from emotional distress.
- Other Causes of Hair Loss
Another common cause of hair loss in women is low iron store. A large majority of the people who consult a Trichologist have below optimum iron stores for good hair growth. A study conducted on 1000 women revealed 33% suffered female hair loss. 90% caused by low stores and 10% caused by low iron stores and 10% caused by genetic (female pattern baldness) or other factors. Often blood tests to check for iron stores as the first step for women suffering with increased hair loss.
Low B12 and Hair Loss
Low B12 – another cause of hair loss in women which is frequently missed by GP’s. It’s not a routine blood test and even when a person is tested for B12, if the result is borderline they will rarely be treated. Symptoms of low B12 include hair loss, breathlessness, lack of energy palpitations, bleeding gums, mouth ulcers, tingling in the hands and feet.
There are two types of B12 deficiency:
- Lack of dietary B12 – usually vegetarians and vegans, B12 is mostly found in animal produce rather than plants.
- Autoimmune – Antibodies to intrinsic factor prevent absorption of dietary B12. A blood test can be carried out to determine if your problem is dietary or autoimmune. If your problem is auto immune, your GP will do further investigation to try to determine why it has developed.
Pregnancy and Childbirth
You hair will probably be about the healthiest it’s ever been during pregnancy. The increased levels of oestrogen affect the hair growth lifecycle and the follicles remain in the growth phase (anagen) longer than usual. Hair appears thick, shiny and full of vitality, but after the birth thinning occurs as all the hair that’s hung around in the anagen stage falls with the rest during the telogen phase. Your hair will temporarily take a back seat as your body’s resources are used to replenish the rest of your system.
For some women one of the most depressing aspects of menopause can be rapid hair loss. Although not as well know as some symptoms of menopause , hair loss can affect up to 50% of women. As with most menopause symptoms hair loss is caused by an imbalance in the bodies hormones. The lower levels of estrogen in the body lead to an imbalance with the male hormones. Testosterone is the hormone which causes baldness in men and is found in much smaller levels in women, the imbalance in the hormone levels can then affect women and cause rapid hair loss. The good news is that if the hair loss is menopausal related the effects are rarely permanent.
Thyroid problems and hair loss solutions
Thyroid problems are increasingly common amongt women. If a woman’s tyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, it is considered to be underactive leading to hypothyroidism some women will feel the hypothyroifdsm immediately, as everything slows down, you may find yourself forgetful, fatigued, constipated and unable to tolerate cold temperature and also experience hair loss and thinning hair. The hair can become brittle and break off as the degree of hair loss varies in individuals. You can also experience loss of body hair and spares eyebrows In addition to hair loss other signs of hypothyroidism include weight gain, high cholesterol, depression, dry skin, stiff joints and sluggishness. An over active thyroid is called hyperthyroidism.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks healthy tissues. The condition affects about 1.5 million people and tends to strike women during their childbearing years. The symptoms: Lupus often causes extreme fatigue, headaches, oral ulcers, and painful, swollen joints. Many people develop a butterfly-shaped rash across the bridge of the nose and become more sensitive to the sun. Other symptoms include fever; swelling in the feet and hands and around the eyes; chest pain; and anaemia. Many people also experience hair loss, which may be mild and occur while shampooing or brushing your hair—or it may be more severe, coming out in patches and accompanied by a rash on the scalp. Chemical damage – often caused by chemicals used for colouring, bleaching, straightening, or perming if over used or used incorrectly. They may also damage the hair follicle which may in turn cause permanent damage.
- Genetic alopecia – hair loss attributed to genetic thinning.
- Accidental damage – including burns, malicious assault, trauma etc.
- Drugs and surgery – through drug effects, cancer
- Chemotherapy/radiation – drugs designed to kill cancer cells also poison the hair follicles and that often results in total hair loss. The hair may grow back but sometimes becomes thinner and a different colour. But in most cases the hair eventually returns to its original texture and colour.
- Disease – diabetes, lupus under or over active thyroid
- Physical stress – illness, anaemia, rapid weight changes, surgery
- Diet – too little protein or iron in your diet can cause hair loss
- Emotional stress – mental illness, death of a loved one.
- Poor nutrition – inadequate iron or protein, crash or fad diets, bowel disease, eating disorders.
- Medication – drugs used to treat arthritis, birth control pills, gout, blood thinners, anti-depressants, high blood pressure medications, high doses of vitamin A
- Hormonal changes – pregnancy, birth control pills, and the menopause.