When is hair loss abnormal? Individuals can lose as much as a hundred strands of hair every day. Yet, this can be perfectly normal for as long as hair loss does not go beyond that number. Under natural conditions, hair loss can always be replaced by new hair. However, when it becomes excessive, this could signal some treatment so as to prevent having patches on the head or worst balding.
So, when is hair loss abnormal? Put it the other way around. When does one lose more than a hundred strands of hair or what conditions could trigger excessive hair loss? Can it be treated? How fast can it be replaced by normal growth?
Hair Growth Factors
Hair growth can be influenced by many factors like race, genetic factors or inheritance, gender, seasons, and health disorders.
It is said that the average hair grows at least 6 inches or 15 centimeters every year. This rate could vary among races, like, for Caucasians, hair growth could measure a little more than 5 inches or 13 centimeters every year. For Asians, it could be nearly 6 inches every year, while for Africans, they could grow as much as only 4 inches or 10 centimeters annually. Regardless of hair type and race, the average hair loss of human beings is only a hundred hairs per day.
They call it “alopecia” which is a medical term for excessive hair loss. The word alopecia is of Greek origin which comes from the word “alōpekia” to mean fox. The word alopecia itself is a term for “mange in foxes” which is a kind of skin disease in canines.
Hair loss is caused by a variety of conditions. Studies have also shown that genetic factors influence hair growth in terms of its length, density, color, and texture. At the same time, it can be a source of disorders that can affect the hair growth of an individual.
Alopecia is to be differentiated from the normal condition where there is the absence of hair growth in the head known as hypotrichosis.
Hair loss is a disorder that may be considered as genetic, dysmorphic disorder, or any excessive psychological condition and behaviors. Generally, people who have a dysmorphic disorder are extremely fanatical or obsessed by his/her physical appearance. You can see this type of person repeatedly checking himself/herself in the mirror or checking on how he looks, sometimes for hours in a day to give him a reassurance that he/she looks good and flawless. This kind of behavior can be a cause of his distress and can affect one’s ability to perform his/her daily life as the behavior can be repetitive.
People who suffer from this disorder often resort to many cosmetic procedures in their attempt to mend their observed flaws about themselves. They try all types of cosmetics like shampoos, conditioners, hair styling tools, hairsprays, etc. without close examination whether it can work suitably for their specific hair types.
When Is Hair Loss Abnormal?
As we said earlier, normal hair loss can be as much as 100 strands of hair every day. In other words, it is normal to see as much as 100 strands of hair every day on the bathroom or shower strain, your pillow, your towel, or comb. It becomes abnormal when you see more than that number every day and eventually can lead to hair thinning, and worst, to balding when not addressed at its early stages.
When you have noticed your hair thinning out or see patches on your hair, receding hairlines, and bald spots, these are all signals of abnormal hair loss. Abnormal hair loss can be a product of both controllable and uncontrollable factors. Examples of causes of hair loss that you can control are stress, dietary intake such as seeing to it that you have the right amounts of protein and iron in your diet, and hair cleaning and styling habits.
In cases like these, you think of going to your doctor or dermatologist to consult what is wrong with your hair. Primarily, you will be asked by your doctor the amount of hair you have lost and for how long have you noticed them. It would also help if you tell your doctor that your family has a history of baldness.
As you grow older, the risk of losing excessive hair also increases. Most especially if the potential cause is genetic or if you have some health problems or disease where it is necessary for you to take medications like when you have cancer, arthritis, or having thyroid problems. Or perhaps you have a hair pulling disorder.
Common Causes of Abnormal Hair Loss
Although the cause of abnormal hair loss cannot easily be ruled out, doctors at Mayo Clinic have categorized them according to:
- Hormonal transformations
- Disease or abnormal health conditions
Heredity, which refers to a person’s family history, can affect hair growth and hair growth rate. Regardless of the gender a person has, he/she is still susceptible to abnormal hair loss.
Your family history can affect different factors that could lead to abnormal hair loss, such as, its rate, extent of its damage or baldness, and your age when you will start losing hair. According to experts, hair loss can even occur at a very tender age even during puberty. Furthermore, hair loss can result to hair thinning and miniaturization or when its quality and texture becomes fine, soft, and short.
Hormonal changes and imbalances may also result in excessive hair loss. Often, this can be for a temporary duration like when one is pregnant or after one has just given birth or during the start of the menopausal stage for a woman. The hormonal levels of an individual can also be affected by his thyroid glands. Hypothyroidism can cause hair loss.
Disease or Abnormal Health Conditions
Abnormal health can also cause abnormal hair loss. This happens whenever the body has a lowered immune system than the average.
Abnormal hair loss can be caused by medications for cancer, arthritis, hypertension, heart problems, depression, birth control, and even excessive doses of vitamin A.
Other Possible Causes of Abnormal Hair Loss
Abnormal hair loss can be due to radiation, depression, physical and emotional shock, weight loss, extreme use of hairstyling chemicals and tools, such as, hot oil treatments and permanents, use of pigtails, or cornrows that could cause inflammation and/or damage hair follicles.
Hair loss becomes abnormal when it results in bald patches on the head, usually manifesting smooth and round characteristics.
Hair loss also becomes excessive when one has scalp infections, but they tend to be temporary that can easily be restored with some treatments.
Skin disorders can also cause abnormal hair loss, like lichen planus, lupus, and sarcoidosis.
Another possible cause of abnormal hair loss is hair-pulling disorder or trichotillomania wherein a person experiences an uncontrollable urge to pull out their hair in the body, from their scalp, eyebrows, or in other areas.
Known Types of Abnormal Hair Loss
Alopecia areata is a common type of hair loss wherein circular bald patches appear on the scalp and other parts of the body that have hairs. In this case, hair loss can be spontaneous and may regrow when an inflammation on the skin has already subsided. If it covers the whole scalp, it is known as alopecia totalis. Whenever it spreads all over the body areas, it is alopecia universalis. For men, whenever it appears on the chin or on the beard area, then it is called as alopecia barbae.
Trichotillomania is an abnormal condition that causes people to pull out their hairs from their scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other parts of their bodies.
Fungal infections or tinea capitis can cause hair loss due to the presence of ringworm on the scalp. This results in bald spots with some black dots on the spot wherein the hair has fallen off. The condition can also be temporary as it can be treated with antifungal medications and antibiotics.
Telogen effluvium refers to the uneven thinning of the scalp. The telogen phase occurs where hair grows, sheds, and regrows by itself. However, hair can reach the rest phase prematurely and, this is known as telogen effluvium. This state can cause a shock to the system and could last for weeks to months. This condition can result from a person who has undergone high fever, severe infection, major surgery, and childbirth. Or it can be caused by a chronic or severe illness, extreme stress, an overactive or underactive thyroid glands, crash diets, or medications like retinoids, beta blockers, antidepressant, calcium channel blockers, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Under normal hair growth conditions, hair loss expects hair regrowth. Thus, no treatment is necessary as it will resume normal growth.
However, in extreme cases, excessive hair loss or alopecia can occur to any person. Alopecia or excessive or abnormal hair loss can be caused by a range and combination of factors that could range from genetics to drugs and even to other psychological abnormalities. It could happen to anybody; hence, it is an androgenetic disorder, or it could be a symptom of a variety of diseases. Some forms of alopecia are not easily diagnosed, and it may take months or even years to get the right diagnosis for some patients. At some point, there can be known treatments as some of these conditions are rare or are indeed abnormal.