As a woman, experiencing hair loss and bald patches can be embarrassing, not to mention terrifying. Often considered to be a male problem, women constitute about 40% of hair loss sufferers in America, according to the American Hair Loss Association. And while it is not uncommon for women to experience thinning of hair during and after menopause, occasionally women with developing hair loss can be due to an underlying condition. Some of the most common conditions include: Androgenic Alopecia, Alopecia Areata, Fungal Infections, Telogen Effluvium, Thyroid Issues and Scalp Psoriasis.
For many, Androgenic Alopecia, also known as female pattern hair loss, is primarily an inherited condition. However, women who have high levels of circulating androgenic hormones are more susceptible to this condition. Women can also experience excessive hair loss during and after menopause due to a reduced level of estrogen during this period that makes the hair follicles more sensitive to the effects of androgen. The following conditions are also associated with female Androgenic Alopecia:
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Use of birth control pills
Alopecia AreataWith Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune condition, the hair follicles are mistakenly attacked by the body’s own immune system, often causing baldness restricted to a sharply defined area or complete baldness. Alopecia Areata, the appearance of bald spots, are usually round in shape, but sometimes can take other shapes as well. Along with causing scalp hair loss, Alopecia Areata can affect the hair on other parts of the body. Alopecia Areata generally requires treatment, but sometimes resolves on its own.
Telogen Effluvium, most often associated with a shock or trauma and high levels of stress, can cause the hair follicles to go into the resting state. This in turn, disrupts the normal cycle of hair growth. Some of the most common factors that can cause Telogen Effluvium are:
- Major surgery
- Excessive stress
- Severe infections
- Thyroid problems
- Chronic stress
- Chronic illness
- Crash diets
- Allergic contact dermatitis of the scalp
Hair loss caused by Telogen Effluvium often resolves on its own. The hair usually grows back within a period of two to three months from the occurrence of the stressful event.
Thyroid problems, such as hypo and hyperthyroidism are quite common in women, and both conditions can cause hair loss. A significantly low or high level of the thyroid hormones can not only cause hair loss, but can change its texture. In addition to scalp hair, thyroid problems can affect the hair on other parts of the body, including the eyebrows and eyelashes.
Scalp psoriasis generally produces raised, scaly patches of reddish color, covered with silvery-white scales, along with dandruff-like flaking on the scalp. Intense itching produced by this condition often compels the affected person to scratch the area vigorously, and remove the scales forcefully, which can result in hair loss.
Currently, the causes of Scalp Psorisis is associated with the immune system. A type of immune cells, known as T cells, attack the healthy skin cells by mistake. This results in the increased production of skin cells, and white blood cells (including the T cells). This eventually causes dead skin and white blood cells to accumulate on the surface of the skin, and form the characteristics thick, scaly patches.
Apart from the above mentioned reasons, some other possible causes of excessive hair loss and bald patches in women are:
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- Chemotherapy and Radiation treatment
- Thyroid medications
- Excessive intake of vitamin A
- The treatment of excessive hair loss and bald patches can only receive proper treatment with an accurate diagnosis. If in association with Androgenic Alopecia a treatment with minoxidil and finasteride can be positive. These topical preparations have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of Androgenic Alopecia. Often tretinoin combined with minoxidil, dutasteride, spironolactone, and ketoconazole shampoo are helpful for treating this condition.
- Alopecia Areata is often a positive treatment in conjunction with the corticosteroid, clobetasol or fluocinonide. Steroid injections and creams, along with minoxidil, anthralin, and cyclosporine are also useful for treating alopecia areata.
- A healthy and balanced diet can help immensely, if a poor diet is the reason behind excessive hair loss.
- Bald spots caused by fungal infections would require appropriate anti-fungal medications.
- If you are suffering from scalp psoriasis, a combination of salicylic acid, coal tar, moisturizers, and topical corticosteroids, if the symptoms are not so severe.
- For severe scalp psoriasis, corticosteroids, cyclosporine, oral vitamin A and D derivatives, and light therapy can be required. Sometimes, topical retinoids and anthralin are also used for treating this condition.
Excessive hair loss often indicates that there is something wrong with your body. So, if you experience substantial hair thinning, be sure to consult your physician, and follow his or her advice regarding the use of medications. At the same time, make sure that you follow a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, reduce the level of stress, and exercise regularly.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.