Alopecia: Why Is Your Hair Falling Out?
Updated: May 19, 2022
It is not just one condition that results in hair loss, but several ones.
If you're experiencing sudden excessive hair loss, or know someone who is, you might be concerned about why this is happening and whether you can do anything about it. It's not uncommon for people to experience some level of hair loss during normal growth cycles, but it is unusual for hair to fall out in large quantities over a short time unless there is some underlying condition causing this type of hair loss.
Hair loss or alopecia is a condition in which hair falls out in patches or at random. It is a common problem affecting men and women and can be caused by stress, disease, or heredity. Also, hair loss can be temporary or permanent. It's normal to lose around 100 hairs from your head each day. Let’s check some of the most common reasons for hair loss.
What causes hair loss?
Stress - Hair loss is a common symptom of stress. It’s the body's reaction to a stress hormone called cortisol. When you're under stress, your body produces more cortisol than usual. The extra cortisol signals your hair follicles to enter their "resting" phase prematurely, so new hair growth slows down and existing hair falls out faster. So emotional stress is not the only trigger for hair loss, physical stress like major surgery, high fever, or serious infection, can cause temporary hair loss.
Aging - As people get older, the production of testosterone also declines. Since testosterone is responsible for body and facial hair growth in both men and women, when this hormone declines as you get older, so does your body's hair growth.
Male or female pattern baldness (hereditary hair loss) - It's the most common cause of hair loss. Men with male-pattern baldness tend to have a receding hairline and thinning hair at the crown and temples, but they rarely go bald. Women with female-pattern baldness usually have thinning over the entire scalp, but their part may look wider than usual because more scalp is visible.
Hair damage caused by heat, dyes, or other chemicals - this one doesn’t need too much explanation. It explains itself.
Certain medications - Some prescription medications can cause hair loss as a side effect. These include blood thinners, medicines used to treat gout, high blood pressure medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and birth control pills. Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen and naproxen may trigger a reaction in some people that leads to hair loss.
Certain diseases or medical conditions - Many medical conditions can cause sudden hair loss, particularly in women. These include diabetes, thyroid disorders, iron deficiency anemia, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), ringworm, and lupus.
Smoking and drinking - Smoking restricts blood flow to the scalp and drinking alcohol interferes with the absorption of nutrients. For your hair follicles to grow healthy strands of hair, they need a regular supply of oxygen and nutrients from the blood. Therefore, when these elements aren't delivered, your hair follicles shrink and become weaker, making them susceptible to breakage and shedding.
Lack of certain vitamins and minerals - Vitamins and minerals that are important for healthy hair include vitamin D, B12, iron, zinc, biotin, and omega-3 fatty acids. A lack of these vitamins and minerals can cause hair loss.
Post-partum - During pregnancy, the hormone estrogen prolongs your hair's growth phase, which is why so many women have long and luscious locks during those nine months. When estrogen levels drop after birth, hair shifts into its resting phase (when strands shed) more quickly than usual. So instead of shedding 50 or 60 hairs a day like usual, you may suddenly notice 125 or more falling out each day as your body readjusts its hormone levels back to pre-pregnancy. The loss is temporary and should stop within 6 to 12 months after delivery.
Sudden weight loss - When you cut out entire food groups or drastically reduce your calories, your body perceives it as starvation. And you might be depriving your body of important nutrients. To conserve energy, your body reacts by shutting down non-vital processes such as hair growth. Your hair goes into a resting phase and stops growing.
Hair-pulling disorder (Trichotillomania) - this is a mental disorder that causes a person to pull their hair out. People with trichotillomania may feel tension before pulling the hair, and experience pleasure or relief after the hair is pulled. The constant pulling of hair can cause inflammation in the follicles and permanent damage to those follicles and surrounding skin. This results in areas of baldness and scarring on the scalp or other areas of the body where hair was pulled.
Poor hygiene - When you don’t wash your hair regularly, your scalp builds up oil which can lead to dandruff and clogged pores. This leads to hair loss because your scalp isn’t able to breathe properly when there are too many oils clogging up the pores on top of it.
There are many reasons one person can suffer hair loss, like medical conditions, medications, or emotional stress, among others. If you notice unusual hair loss of any kind, it's important to see your primary care provider or a dermatologist to get checked and determine the cause and treatment. Hair loss can be frustrating, but treatments are available to help slow it down or regrow hair.
And as always, stay healthy and come back for the next topic.
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