Shedding Light On Female Alopecia
Rashi C. Waghel, PharmD
Jennifer A. Waitzman, PharmD, BCACPAssistant Professor of PharmacyWingate, North Carolina
US Pharm. 2013 38:62-65.
ABSTRACT: Alopecia is a common problem in females. Several typesof alopecia exist, each having different etiologies and treatmentoptions. Regardless of the cause or type of alopecia, hair loss can havea negative impact on an individuals self-image therefore, it isimportant to address patients emotional needs as well as their medicalhealth needs. Although FDA-approved pharmacologic options for femalealopecia are limited, several medications are being investigated fortheir use in this population. Regardless of whether a patient decides toutilize pharmacologic treatment, minimization strategies can helpreduce hair loss and alleviate the negative emotional impact of thiscondition.
Alopecia, more commonly referred to as hair loss, is a problemfaced by millions of people in the United States. Alopecia does notrefer to normal, everyday loss of hair. It is common for a person tolose around 50 to 100 hairs each day.1 Alopecia suggests anamount of hair loss greater than what is normally expected.Traditionally, more attention has been paid to male-pattern baldness however, alopecia is common in females as well. More than 21 millionfemales in the U.S. are affected by alopecia.2
Other Symptoms That Help With Diagnosis
You may also experience a range of other symptoms if your hair loss is caused by an underlying condition.
- Hypothyroidism may cause anything from fatigue to weight gain, muscle weakness to joint swelling.
- Ringworm may cause scaly and painful gray or red patches on the scalp.
- Celiacdisease may cause anything from mouth ulcers to headaches, skin rashes to anemia.
- Hodgkinsdisease may cause symptoms like fever, night sweats, and swelling of the lymph nodes.
Your doctor will take into account the other symptoms youre experiencing besides hair loss to help pinpoint the cause. This may involve anything from a physical examination to blood tests to scalp biopsies.
Some conditions, like celiac disease, may be genetically inherited. If you have a family history of a condition that leads to hair loss, be sure to mention it to your doctor.
Women may experience hair loss during menopause due to reduced production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These changes also lead to symptoms like menstrual cycle irregularity, dry skin, night sweats, weight gain, and vaginal dryness. This added stress on the body may also worsen hair loss.
Some women may even notice thinning and loss after going off hormonal birth control pills. Why? Again, hormonal changes of any kind, particularly falling estrogen levels, can temporarily disrupt the hair lifecycle.
Possible triggers of TE hair loss:
- high fever
- emotional stress
- crash diets, lack of protein, eating disorders, and so on
What To Expect At Your Office Visit
A careful medical history and examination of the hair and scalp are usually enough to diagnose the cause of your hair loss.
Your provider will ask detailed questions about:
- Symptoms of your hair loss. If there is a pattern to your hair loss or if you are losing hair from other parts of your body as well, if other family members have hair loss.
- How you care for your hair. How often you shampoo and blow dry or if you use hair products.
- Your emotional well-being and if you are under a lot of physical or emotional stress
- Your diet, if you have made recent changes
- Recent illnesses such as a high fever or any surgeries
Tests that may be performed include:
- Blood tests to rule out disease
- Microscopic examination of a plucked hair
- Skin biopsy of the scalp
If you have ringworm on the scalp, you may be prescribed an antifungal shampoo and oral medicine for you to take. Applying creams and lotions may not get into the hair follicles to kill the fungus.
Your provider may advise you to use a solution, such as Minoxidil that is applied to the scalp to stimulate hair growth. Other medicines, such as hormones, may be prescribed to decrease hair loss and promote hair growth. Drugs such as finasteride and dutasteride can be taken by men to decrease hair loss and grow new hair.
If you have a certain vitamin deficiency, your provider will likely recommend that you take a supplement.
Read Also: Why Is My Hair So Thin Now
What Is Tinea Capitis
Tinea is the medical word for fungal infection, and capitis means head. Tinea capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp that for the most part affects school-age children.
- Tinea capitis is more common in black African or African-American scalps.
- This condition is rare in healthy adults.
- Bald spots usually show broken-off hairs accompanied by dermatitis.
- Oral antifungals can penetrate the hair roots and cure the infection, after which hair grows back.
- Sharing hats or combs and brushes may transmit tinea capitis.
What Causes Hair Loss In Women
With any symptom that arises in the body, including female hair loss, its best to get to the root cause of the issue. . What can be daunting about trying to pinpoint what causes hair loss in women, is that there are so many different possible causes. One of the most common culprits is stress. There is good stress, like exercise, and bad stress, think chronic stress. When we overload the body with too much of the harmful stress, we induce inflammation in the body. This inflammation causes our hair to weaken, and potentially fall out. There are also cases where people are so stressed that they unconsciously begin to pull out their own hair.
Another common cause of hair loss in women is yo-yo and restrictive dieting. When we dont consume enough calories, or we restrict the type of food we eat, we miss out on vital vitamins and minerals. Think of our body as a plant. If we dont water it properly, it will begin to wilt and lose leaves. Our hair is the same. If it doesnt receive the right amount of nutrients, it will become frail and likely fall out. Side effects of a low mineral diet can be poor circulation and blood deficiencies, both of which can also contribute to hair loss.
Natural female transitional periods, like childbirth and menopause, are also times when women are likely to experience hair loss. With hormones and stress levels high, the body focuses on what its being signaled is a major priority, and not so much on collagen production and hair growth.
Also Check: How To Change Thin Hair To Thick Hair
Key Points About Temporary Or Abnormal Hair Loss
What Causes Hair Loss
There are many different types of hair loss with a variety of potential underlying causes. Several medical conditions are associated with hair loss in women. Common causes include thyroid problems and hormone imbalances. Wondering how to stop hair loss in women? When the underlying cause of hair loss is diagnosed and treated, hair loss may stop, and hair may grow back. Stress, nutritional factors, and genetics may also play a role in hair loss. Severe physical stress such as going through childbirth, surgery, or suffering a serious illness may precipitate a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. This is a condition in which stress forces large numbers of follicles to enter the resting phase, and after a few months, hair will fall out.
Sometimes doctors are not able to determine what is causing hair loss. Other potential causes of hair loss include radiation therapy, cancer, kidney failure, liver failure, medication side effects, and autoimmune disease. If you are experiencing new or increasing hair loss, see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.
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Do Women Experience More Hair Loss Due To Covid
Generally, women pay more attention to their appearance than men and they are more sensitive to their looks. Therefore, when experienced with a COVID-19 related hair loss, they exhibit stronger symptoms of depression and anxiety which trap them in a vicious circle of stress and hair loss.
Utkan Kzltaç, MD
Chief Physician and Dermatologist Hair Transplant Surgeon of UnitedCare, a dermatology clinic helping patients become the best version of themselves.
I’m A Woman Experiencing Sudden Hair Loss Should I Be Worried
Sudden hair loss can be alarming and if you do find yourself losing hair quickly you should visit your doctor.
Sudden patchy hair loss can be attributed to alopecia areata, which is normally temporary noticeable thinning of the hair, meanwhile, is more likely to be related to illness, stress, hormonal changes, or lifestyle factors such as crash dieting.
Also Check: Can Hair Loss Caused By Stress Be Reversed
How Can I Stop My Hair Loss
Eliminating the variables that cause your hair loss is the first step to stopping your hair loss. Be aware that there is not a magical solution. You may start with lifestyle changes and dietary updates. You can reduce alcohol consumption and smoking, and start taking supplementary and pharmacological medications. Most importantly, consult with a dermatologist whose specialty is scalp and hair loss to understand the root cause.
Can I Prevent Abnormal Hair Loss
Most types of hair loss cant be prevented. However, there are a few things you can do that may help keep your hair healthy and strong for longer, including to avoid:
- tight hairstyles, such as braids, buns or ponytails
- twisting, rubbing or pulling your hair
- hair lotions that are heavily perfumed
- excessive heat treatments
- undue exposure to ultra-violet light from the sun or sunbeds, which expose you to higher levels of UV radiation than the sun.
Other useful actions to take involve stopping smoking. as well as having a balanced diet. This should include eggs, berries, avocados and nuts all are thought to help healthy hair grow, along with Vitamins A and C, biotin and, in some cases, vitamin B12.
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Symptoms Of Sudden Hair Loss In Women
Everyone loses hair as a regular part of the hair growth cycle. Its normal to lose up to 150 hairs per day! That may sound like a lot, but since we have 90,000 to 150,000 hair follicles on our scalp, those 150 hairs per day arent at all noticeable.
In some cases of female hair loss, women begin to lose more than 150 hairs per day, which eventually leads to thinner-looking hair. This is almost always the case with sudden hair loss in women. Sudden hair loss in women may be diffuse. If you notice a widening part or a smaller ponytail, you may have this type of female hair loss. Sometimes sudden hair loss in women is concentrated in certain areas, like the crown or temples.
The most important symptom of sudden hair loss is that it happens quickly. Women who have sudden hair loss sometimes report that their hair comes out by the fistful.
The good news is that women with sudden hair loss do not usually lose all of their hair. However, in some cases, sudden hair loss can be quite noticeable.
Before and after HairLust
So how do you treat sudden hair loss in women? Unfortunately, if youre already experiencing sudden female hair loss, there isnt much you can do to stop the hair loss from running its course. As we said before, telogen effluvium starts when a trigger causes your hair to stop growing. By the time you notice you have hair loss, its too late to do anything to prevent the hair from falling out.
Hair Growth Formula Gummies
Diet Deficiencies: Your Hair Is What You Eat
The essential vitamins and nutrients, like protein, that you get from a healthy, varied, and well-balanced diet ensure good health all throughout your body, making sure all your organs and internal systems are working just as they should. Poor nutrition or following a severely restrictive crash or fad diet can lead to all kinds of nutrient deficiencies, which in turn can result in hair loss, from thinning hair to patches of baldness.
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Women And Hair Loss: Coping Tips
Losing your crowning glory can be particularly difficult for women. But there are ways to cope.
Losing your hair as a woman, especially if you’re young or at a vulnerable time in your life, can badly affect your confidence.
Hair loss, known medically as alopecia, is fairly common. It’s estimated, for instance, that around 40% of women aged 70 years or over experience female-pattern baldness the most common type of hair loss, which is thought to be inherited.
Medications To Treat Hair Loss
Treatment depends on the underlying cause, says Dr. Scott. Sometimes simply addressing a medical condition prompting hair loss will be enough for the hair to regrow. In other instances, a woman might consider a medication like minoxidil , which helps with certain types of hair loss, or another treatment to replace or regrow lost hair.
A newer option being used to treat hair loss is platelet-rich plasma injections. For this treatment, the doctor draws your blood, divides it into its separate components, recombines the blood fluid with a high concentration of platelets , and introduces the resulting preparation back into the scalp.
The science on this isnt totally worked out. We still dont completely understand the mechanism behind PRP, but growth factors contained in platelets can stimulate regeneration of hair follicles and other tissues as well, says Dr. Scott.
In addition, low-level LED laser lights have been found to be helpful in regrowing hair in some cases. Its likely that even more treatments will be developed in the near future.
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Thinning Hair In Women: Why It Happens And What Helps
Many people think of hair loss as a male problem, but it also affects at least a third of women. But unlike men, women typically experience thinning hair without going bald, and there can be a number of different underlying causes for the problem.
Some are associated with inflammation in the body. Some are female-pattern hair loss, says Dr. Deborah Scott, assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Hair Loss Clinic at Brigham and Womens Hospital. But the good news is that in many cases this hair loss can be stabilized with treatment, and it may be reversible. When its not, there are a number of new cosmetic approaches that can help.