Women represent 40% of American hair loss sufferers. Who knew? And as one would guess, this can be completely devastating to women.
Types of Women’s Hair Loss
Hair loss can be temporary or permanent. Temporary hair loss can be curable when it’s diagnosed and treated, but difficult when not properly understood or misdiagnosed, which can be extremely frustrating – especially for women.
Alopecia is the medical term for excessive or abnormal hair loss. There are different kinds of alopecia, as explained in the “Men’s Hair Loss” Page of this site. As you’ll see, no matter what it’s called, it means that something is wrong. In theory, hair is supposed to remain on your head until there’s a problem somewhere. Having said that – again – it can be caused by stress, pregnancy, or other temporary issues, and once those times pass, it can grow back.
Causes of Hair Loss
As on the “Men’s Hair Loss” Page, many of the causes of hair loss for men and women are the same. But not exactly the same:
Under typical conditions, women do not have nearly the testosterone that men have, but even these small levels can cause DHT-triggered hair loss. Since hormones operate best when they are in a healthy yet delicate balance, the male hormones do not need to be raised to cause problems. Female hormones, when lowered, give an edge to these androgens (the male ones) such as DHT. This can cause hair loss.
Hormones are cyclical, and testosterone levels in many men drop by 10% every ten years after they reach thirty-years old. Women’s hormone levels decline as they enter menopause and continue to drop sharply during and after. These cycles are one reason hair loss can increase in the short term while on a treatment that controls hair loss.
The following are the most common causes of women’s hair loss:
Men generally experience distinct patterns of baldness, and women typically have thinning hair on all areas of the scalp; but some women may have both combinations. Androgenic alopecia in women can be triggered by ovarian cysts, birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause. All the other factors of men’s andogenetic alopecia remain the same.
When you experience physical trauma (child birth, malnutrition, surgery, infection, etc.) much of your hair in the growing (anagen) or resting phase (catagen) can immediately shift into the shedding phase (telogen). About 6 weeks to three months after the stressful event is usually when telogen effluvium can begin. You can lose handfuls of hair at a time when in complete telogen effluvium. For most who suffer with TE, remission is possible – even probably – as long as these sort of events can be avoided.
Anagen effluvium occurs when a hair follicle’s mitotic or metabolic activity is impaired. This is commonly associated with chemotherapy. Since chemotherapy targets your cancer cells, your body’s other rapidly dividing cells – such as hair follicles – are also affected.
Braiding, cornrows, tight ponytails, and extensions are the most common styles of hair that can cause traction alopecia. These tight hairstyles can cause trauma to the hair follicles.
Hair loss in women isn’t always as easy, pronounced, or straightforward as it is in men. In men, approximately 90% of cases are genetic. In women, however, it can be triggered by many, many different conditions and circumstances.
The following diagnostic tests should be performed when attempting to find out why you’re losing your hair:
—Hormone levels (DHEAs, testosterone, androstenedione, prolactin, follicular stimulating hormone, and leutinizing hormone)
—Total iron binding capacity (TIBC)
—Thyroid stimulating hormone (T3, T4, TSH)
—VDRL (a screening test for syphilis)
—Complete blood count (CBC)
A small section of scalp usually 4mm in diameter is removed and examined under a microscope to help determine the cause of hair loss.
The hair pull test is a simple diagnostic test in which the physician lightly pulls a small amount of hair (approx 100 simultaneously) in order to determine if there is excessive loss. Normal range is one to three hairs per pull.
The densitometer is a handheld magnification device which is used check for miniaturization of the hair shaft.