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Causes of Bald Spots in Women

Major Causes of Bald Spots That Every Woman Should Be Aware Of

Several factors can be responsible for causing excessive hair loss and bald patches in women, of which a few are discussed in this article.
Chandramita Bora
Last Updated: Mar 6, 2018
Did You Know?
According to American Hair Loss Association, women constitute about 40% of hair loss sufferers in America.
Baldness is often considered a male problem, as hair loss in women rarely results in bald patches. Women usually experience overall thinning of hair, especially during and after menopause. But occasionally, they can develop baldness due to some underlying conditions.

In women, baldness is generally restricted to the development of small bald patches, along with hair thinning. Some of the common conditions that can cause excessive hair loss, and the development of bald spots in women are discussed below.

Causes of Female Baldness
Androgenic Alopecia
Both men and women can experience androgenic alopecia, though it is more common in men. Male androgenic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness, usually causes total hair loss above the temples and vertex, leaving behind a rim of hair at the sides and the rear of the head. Female androgenic alopecia or female pattern hair loss on the other hand, causes diffuse thinning of hair. But rarely, it can result in the development of bald patches on the scalp.

For many, androgenic alopecia is an inherited condition. However, women who have high levels of circulating androgenic hormones have been observed to be more susceptible to this condition. Women can also experience excessive hair loss during and after menopause. A reduced level of estrogen during this period makes the hair follicles more sensitive to the effects of androgen, which can result in excessive hair loss. Apart from these, the following conditions can also be associated with female androgenic alopecia.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Use of birth control pills, especially those with high androgen index.
Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that can affect both men and women, and cause baldness restricted to a sharply defined area. But sometimes, it can also cause complete baldness. Alopecia areata is characterized by the appearance of bald spots that 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. In this disease, the hair follicles are mistakenly attacked by the body's own immune system. Alopecia areata sometimes resolves on its own, and the hair growth can resume with or without treatment.

Fungal Infections
Fungal infections can also cause the appearance of bald patches or spots. Fungus like, ringworm can affect the scalp, and cause hair loss in patches. The bald spots caused by a fungal infection usually appear red and scaly. The infection can also cause itching. However, the hair growth can resume, once the infection is cured with appropriate treatment.

Telogen Effluvium
This condition is usually associated with a shock or trauma and high levels of stress, which 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
  • Childbirth
  • Severe infections
  • Thyroid problems
  • Chronic stress
  • Chronic illness
  • Crash diets
  • Malnutrition
  • 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
Thyroid problems, such as hypo and hyperthyroidism are quite common in women, and both the conditions can cause hair loss. A significantly low or high level of the thyroid hormones can not only cause hair fall, but can change its texture, and make it dry and coarse as well. In addition to scalp hair, thyroid problems can affect the hair on other parts of the body, including the eyebrows.

Scalp Psoriasis
Scalp psoriasis is another condition that can be associated with hair loss. The condition usually 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.

What causes scalp psoriasis is not known, but it is believed to be 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.

Other Causes
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
Treatment for Female Baldness
  • Excessive hair loss and bald patches can be treated only after ascertaining the underlying condition. If it is associated with androgenic alopecia, it can be treated with minoxidil and finasteride. These topical preparations have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of androgenic alopecia. Sometimes, tretinoin combined with minoxidil, dutasteride, spironolactone, and ketoconazole shampoo are also used for treating this condition.
  • Alopecia areata is usually treated with the corticosteroid, clobetasol or fluocinonide. Steroid injections and creams, along with minoxidil, anthralin, and cyclosporine are also used for treating alopecia areata.
  • A healthy and balanced diet can help immensely, if a poor diet is the reason behind excessive hair loss.
  • On the other hand, bald spots caused by fungal infections would require appropriate antifungal medications.
  • If you are suffering from scalp psoriasis, then treatment will involve 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.