When Hair Loss Is Not Genetic
For many people, genetics causes hair loss that occurs as you age. But other factors, including medication, stress, and hormonal fluctuations, can also make your hair fall out.
Why is My Hair Falling Out?
Wonder why your hair is falling out? The answers may surprise you. Many women suffer with sudden hair loss, and most loss of hair has a reason — whether genetic, stress, diet, medication, or certain health conditions.
The most common type of hair loss is the kind that you inherit, called androgenetic alopecia. With genetic hair loss, you lose your hair gradually, and hair loss increases with age. But in some cases, other factors may lead to your hair falling out. It is especially likely that a nongenetic factor may be causing your loss of hair if your once thick, healthy hair suddenly and noticeably begins falling out.
Most of us normally shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. This loss of hair generally does not cause thinning of hair because at the same time new hair is growing on your scalp. But sudden hair loss is something to take seriously. According to the Mayo Clinic, this loss of hair occurs when the cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.
Hair disorders such as androgenetic alopecia (hereditary thinning, or baldness) are the most common cause of hair loss, affecting about 80 million people in the United States, including both men and women. Women with hereditary hair loss most commonly notice a widening part in the front and center of the scalp with generalized thinning, while men see bald patches on the head.
But other than genetic reasons, there are many factors that can result in hair loss, including:
- Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, and lupus
- Medication or major surgery
- Poor nutrition
Autoimmune diseases, such as alopecia areata, result in sudden loss of hair. With alopecia areata the body’s immune system attacks its own hair. This autoimmune disease happens in healthy people and causes smooth, round patches of hair loss on the scalp and other areas of the body. There is treatment available for alopecia areata, so see your dermatologist.
Sometimes an underlying medical condition can result in sudden loss of hair. An estimated 30 diseases, such as thyroid disease, diabetes, lupus, and anemia, cause hair loss. See your doctor for ways to treat the disease and reverse the hair loss.
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and major surgery can cause temporary hair loss. Even though the sudden loss of hair is traumatic, this should reverse when treatment is stopped.
Women can blame hormones for noticeable hair loss. Falling estrogen results in temporary hair loss after giving birth. Hair loss also happens during menopause. Major stress, such as from divorce or death of a loved one, can result in hair loss, too.
Additionally, a poor diet, weight loss, not getting enough protein, and eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia) can result in hair loss. It’s wise to see your doctor for help in reversing the hair loss associated with these conditions.
Blame Prescription Medication for Loss of Hair
Certain prescription drugs include loss of hair among their potential side effects. Among the types of medication that can potentially cause hair loss are blood thinners, vitamin A supplements, some arthritis drugs, antidepressants, gout medication, medication for certain heart problems, blood pressure medication, and birth control pills. If a prescription medication is causing your loss of hair, your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative medication.
Thyroid Disease May Cause Sudden Hair Loss
Thyroid disease is among the many health conditions that include loss of hair as a common symptom. Thyroid disease is a hormonal problem in which your body is producing too much or too little thyroid hormone. If your thyroid gland is overactive or underactive, it could cause your hair to fall out excessively in a general pattern or round patches similar to alopecia areata. Fortunately, the sudden hair loss caused by thyroid disease is usually helped with thyroid disease treatment.
Losing Hair With General Anesthesia and Surgery Is Temporary
If you had major surgery and experienced excessive loss of hair about three months later, the anesthesia combined with the surgery itself may be to blame for your hair falling out. This is because general anesthesia and major surgery put your body under physical stress, which can alter the life cycle of the hairs on your head, and cause excessive loss of hair that shows up several months later. Still, hair loss related to major surgery is temporary, and your hair will grow back over time.
Could Anemia Thin Your Tresses?
Iron-deficiency anemia is one of many health conditions which have loss of hair as a common symptom. Iron-deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia that occurs because the body’s iron levels are too low, due to poor diet, loss of blood, or problems with iron absorption. Low iron levels have been shown to cause a loss of hair.
Hair Appliances Can Leave Hair Brittle
Not all forms of loss of hair are due to loss of the entire strand of hair. Some forms may actually result from hair damage that causes strands of hair to break. Certain hair appliances that use high heat to help style your hair can lead to damaged hair and breakage, which can look like baldness.
Damaging hair appliances that cause sudden hair loss include blow-dryers, flat irons, curling irons, and other devices that apply heat to your hair. These hot hair appliances cause the most damage to your hair when you use them on wet hair, since they actually boil the water in your hair shaft, leaving your hair brittle.
Loss of Hair at Childbirth Is Temporary
“Why is my hair falling out?” is a common question new moms ask their doctors. During pregnancy, most women have shiny, healthy hair that may appear thicker because older hair doesn’t fall out at normal levels. When estrogen levels fall after childbirth, most women experience loss of hair their body was “holding onto” during pregnancy. This excessive loss of hair occurs about three months after childbirth, and is generally temporary. Once estrogen levels balance out, hair shedding will return to normal rates.
Unhealthy Diets Can Result in Sudden Hair Loss
When you don’t get the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your body needs from your diet, it can cause a loss of hair. For instance, too little protein in your diet can damage healthy hair, and inhibit your body’s ability to build new hair follicles. This can cause noticeable hair loss after about two to three months of a protein-deficient diet. Very strict weight loss diets can also cause noticeable hair loss, which commonly occurs about three months after losing 15 pounds or more of body weight.
Loss of Hair Is a Side Effect of Stress
In some cases, severe psychological stress can cause loss of hair. If you have gone through an event that has caused you major stress, it’s not unusual for you to have your hair falling out excessively a couple of months later. Loss of hair caused by stress is usually temporary, and you can expect your hair to stop shedding and slowly begin growing back after about six to eight months.
Trichotillomania is an Impulse Control Disorder
Trichotillomania is a type of mental disorder known as an impulse control disorder, and is most commonly seen in teenagers, particularly teenage girls. In trichotillomania, people feel compelled to impulsively and repeatedly pull out their own hair, which can result in noticeable loss of hair. People with trichotillomania experience a constant urge to pull out the hair from their scalp, eyelashes, nose, eyebrows, and other areas of their bodies.
Fungal Infections Cause Loss of Hair in Patches
In some cases, a scalp infection may be causing your loss of hair. Ringworm is a fungal infection that is especially common in children. Ringworm of the scalp, called tinea capitis, can cause your scalp to become scaly and your hair to fall out, usually in patches. This fungal infection is easily treated with anti-fungal medication, which will stop the loss of hair.