How common is hair loss in women?
Whereas hair loss in men is usually a relatively straightforward problem with the majority of cases being due to androgenic alopecia or typical male pattern baldness, hair loss in women is a more complicated and challenging issue. Although thinning hair is typically considered a “male problem”, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, 40% of women have visible hair loss by the time they are 40 years old and that statistic increases to 50% by 50 years of age. Unfortunately, hair loss in women is often not taken seriously by the medical community although thinning hair can have a significant impact on confidence and self-esteem. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, 29% of women experiencing hair loss report 2 or more symptoms of depression.
What causes hair loss in women?
As with men, the hereditary condition known as androgenic alopecia is the most common causes of hair loss in women. This is also known as female pattern hair loss. Androgenic alopecia is due to the hormone testosterone, which gets converted by an enzyme to dihydrotestosterone or DHT. It is the DHT that is the causative agent. The DHT binds to receptors on the hair follicle and gradually turns off the follicle. At first, the hair produced by the follicle is finer and thinner until eventually the follicle stops growing hair entirely. Although women have significantly lower levels of testosterone and DHT than men, these lower levels are significant enough to result in androgenic alopecia.
Another common cause of hair loss in women is telogen effluvium. Hair follicles go through cycles; a growth phase (anagen), a resting phase (catogen) and a shedding phase (telogen). Any significant stressor can result in a majority of the follicles shifting suddenly from the anagen to the telogen phase which then results in shedding and thinning hair. This shift usually takes place anywhere from six weeks to three months after the inciting event. Some examples of major stressors are childbirth, surgery, illness or extreme stress. Whereas telogen effluvium can be a temporary disorder with hair growth eventually returning to normal, it can also result in permanent hair loss even though the initially inciting event may resolve.
Some other common medical conditions and medications that can result in hair loss include birth control pills, low iron levels, anemia, hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Not all hair loss is due to medical conditions or medications though. Mechanical damage to the follicles can also result in hair loss as well. Any hair style that puts significant traction on the scalp and follicles for prolonged periods of time can irreparably damage the follicle. Braids, weaves and tight pony tails can all produce this type of loss. Most often, the damaged follicles are across the front and can result in the appearance of a receding hairline although hair loss can occur in any region of the scalp that the follicles are damaged.
Since a variety of conditions can result in thinning hair for women and there is significant overlap in how these conditions present, a diagnostic workup may be necessary in order to determine the cause. This work up might include blood tests and/or a scalp biopsy.
What treatment options are available?
Once a diagnosis is determined, an individualized treatment plan will be developed to help minimize future loss and help restore density. Just as there are multiple causes for hair loss, there are multiple avenues of treatment, all of which are offered here at Look Natural Hair Restoration. Hair transplant procedures might be an option whereby follicles are moved from one part of the scalp to another. This can be accomplished by removing a strip of scalp from the back of the head (FUT) of by removing the follicles individually (FUE). If the condition isn’t amenable to a transplant or in conjunction with a transplant, another option is low level laser therapy (LLLT). With LLLT, certain wavelengths of light are used to stimulate growth from the follicles. Since LLLT is a “cold laser”, there are no side effects and no discomfort. Other treatment plans might include topical agents such as Minoxidil or DHT blockers that are applied to the scalp. These can be effective where DHT is the causative agent or vitamins might be recommended in cases like telogen effluvium to encourage growth and maintain the health of growing follicles.