Time to dust off the old family albums to see if hair loss runs in the family. This my friends may just be the biggest culprit behind your current or future hair loss! You may have heard it be called male or female pattern baldness before or maybe even androgenetic alopecia, but hereditary-pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss. In some people, you can recognize it pretty quickly because hair is lost in a well-defined pattern, beginning above both temples. Over time, the hairline then recedes to form sort of an "M" shape. Others may notice a widening of the part or thinning on the crown of the head, but this natural occurrence and condition are caused by some combo of genetics passed down from say your mom’s side of the family, or maybe your dad’s side, that plus hormone levels called androgens can come into play here as well. Upwards of 40% of people will experience a more obvious form of this hereditary pattern of baldness as compared to those whose hair just thins out as they age. And not to scare you or anything but this can begin as early as your 20s or 30s or even later in life say after menopause for women. In other words, this isn't just an old dude’s sort of issue, this can affect anyone at any age, especially if it runs in your family.
It could be the wacky tobacky, or it could be the other legal prescriptions you take every day to keep an ailment under control but unfortunately, medications, in general, could be the root of your hair loss problem. You know when you watch those commercials and they list all the side effects? Well, chances are hair loss or hair falling out may just very well be one of those side effects listed. Certain ingredients within the medications could be toxic to your hair follicles or cells that are responsible for hair growth. And when these follicles become damaged, the normal hair growth cycle is disrupted leading to hair loss.
Curious as to which medications are commonly linked to hair loss? Here are just a few: Blood thinners like warfarin, antidepressants like Prozac or Zoloft, beta-blockers, Cholesterol-lowering medications, Acne fighting scripts like Accutane, and even immune-suppressing drugs like those used to treat autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis as well as the more obvious one like chemotherapy drugs, can all cause hair loss. If you are concerned that a drug you are taking may be making you lose your hair, ask your doctor or a pharmacist for a complete list of potential side effects of your medication. Or ask your physician if you could possibly reduce your dosage or switch your medication for something that has less impact on your hairline.
This could be viral, fungal, bacterial, no matter the type of infection, they all have the possibility of wreaking havoc on your hairline. I’ll give you a few quick examples but honestly, there are so many infections out there that could cause this issue. Ringworm for example is a fungal infection that is especially common in children and athletes. Ringworm of the scalp, called tinea capitis, can cause your head to become scaly and your hair to fall out, usually in patches, but luckily this fungal infection is easily treated with antifungal medication, which will also stop the loss of hair. Another one I see a lot in the ER, is sexually transmitted infections like HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and even syphilis, they can all be responsible for balding or thinning of the hair. Beyond other more obvious reasons to see your doctor and treat an STI, not spreading infection, cancers, and other health problems that may arise from having a sexually transmitted infection but when it comes to hair loss specifically treating an underlying infection like this can restore hair growth and prevent future hair loss as well.
4. Hats Or Beanies.
Know someone who doesn't leave their house without a hat on? Are you that person? You may just want to listen up to what I am about to say. Although it’s a bit unlikely to be the main cause of a person going bald, hats can however speed up the balding process especially if it's already happening or if they are predisposed genetically. What do I mean by that exactly? Well, when you put a hat on or take it off repeatedly that could have some serious consequences to the hairs on your head, especially if the hat doesn't fit your head properly. Like maybe your cowboy hat or beanie fits a little too snug or rubs funny in a certain spot. Well, consider this you could be pulling out the hairs on your head that are already loosely attached. And that’s just for starters, if a hat is too tight it could also cut off air and blood supply to your hair follicles. Making an already bad hair loss situation even worse. So the moral of the will you go bald story, make sure your hats fit properly and maybe don’t wear it every day. Give your scalp a little time to breathe, that way you don't cut off the blood flow to your hair follicles.
You’ve heard of, you are what you eat, well this may ring even more true for your hair as well. To put it simply, if you have a deficiency in your diet, chances are you are more likely to have an umm deficiency in your hairline as well. It should come as no surprise that the essential vitamins and nutrients you get from a healthy well-balanced diet, sets your body up for success and leads to optimal health outcomes. Or the Cliff notes version: Poor nutrition, an imbalanced diet, restrictive fad diets, protein deficiencies, too little iron, too much vitamin A, for instance, all of these examples or even just one of these issues with your diet, can most certainly result in hair thinning, hair loss, or even baldness. And that my friends doesn't even take into account genetics that may be fighting your hairline along the way as well. If you want the best possible chance for good hair on just a very basic, controllable level, make sure you are getting a good well-balanced diet.
6. Pregnancy & Birth Control
After a pregnancy, those same hormone levels can suddenly drop off in the body, which can cause hair thinning and hair loss. The same could go for discontinuing oral contraceptives as well. For instance, immediately after stopping birth control, it is common for one to experience more than normal hair falling out. This sort of hormonal stress or imbalance of coming off the pill or post-pregnancy hair loss is called telogen effluvium and could last for months or even years afterward. The good news is that this kind of hair loss is usually temporary or reversible—meaning the hair typically grows back once the hormones in the body go back to normal levels. If you’re concerned you may have a hormone imbalance in your body talk, please to your doctor about this.
Ever feel so stressed you just want to just rip your hair out? Well, I hate to break it to you but turns out stress already ticks that box. Things like: Severe accidents, surgery, becoming very ill, going through a divorce, studying for a major test, honestly basically anything that can cause serious physical stress on your body absolutely has the potential to disrupt the natural cycle of your hair growth. Which can in turn result in disruption of the hair follicle and thinning hair and ultimately hair loss. Losing big clumps of hair? More strands of hair coming than normal? May want to evaluate the stress levels in your life.
Hair isn't the only concerning factor either, in general stress just does crazy things to our bodies and has the potential to disrupt many of the body’s systems and processes, so If you find yourself more stressed than usual, talk to your doctor or some sort of other mental healthcare professional, it’s truly important to manage these stress levels because it could have major implications on your health in ways well beyond your hairline.
Quick anatomy sesh, your thyroid, is a small little endocrine gland situated at the base of the front of your neck. Hormones produced by your thyroid can have an enormous impact on your health and honestly affect many different processes in your body. But whether one has an underactive thyroid, a medical condition called hypothyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, aka hyperthyroidism, both situations can cause a hormonal imbalance. Very broadly speaking, hormones regulate nearly every function in our body, including (but not limited to) hair growth. So if you have any sort of hormonal imbalance like with say a thyroid issue, this could mean like Elvis, your hair too has left the building. As well as a whole slew of other issues, but curious if you have a thyroid condition? Symptoms may show up in many different ways: anxiousness, trouble sleeping, sensitivity to heat, as well as on your scalp. Maybe you notice all around thinning at first but then it could progress into patches of hair missing and even bald spots. Definitely talk to your doctor if your normal hairs don't seem to be replenishing themselves or if you're experiencing any uniform hair loss.
9. Autoimmune Diseases
Crazy statistic here, autoimmune diseases affect anywhere between 14 and 23 Million Americans. In these types of conditions, one’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own body, and a whole array of side effects or conditions can occur, one of them being hair loss. In fact, one of the most common reasons behind hair loss, especially when it happens to people who are under the age of 50, is having some sort of underlying autoimmune disease.
Lupus, Diabetes, Crohn's Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, skin conditions like Psoriasis. The most common associated autoimmune conditions or byproducts with hair loss? Alopecia Areata. ALOPECIA This is when cells in your immune system surround and attack your hair follicles (the part of your body that makes hair). This attack on a hair follicle causes the attached hair to fall out. The more hair follicles that your immune system attacks, the more hair loss you will have. And get this it affects around 6.5 million people in the US and more than 145 million people worldwide. One will notice it as patches of hair loss but it can progress to complete hair loss on the scalp or alopecia totalis. If someone has an even more severe case, it can evolve into hair loss on the entire body or (alopecia Universalis). Sadly there are no FDA approved medicines for alopecia but there are some injectables and other topical applications that can help with this condition. If you’d like me to do a further deep dive on just this let me know in the comments.
Also known as Trich for short, this is a hair-pulling disorder in the obsessive-compulsive related disorder broader grouping that is characterized by the repetitive pulling out of one's own hair. There are other self-grooming behaviors that can fall into this body-focused repetitive behaviors as well such as picking, scraping, or biting your skin, nails, or hair often resulting in damage to the body.
Research indicates that about 1 or 2 in 50 people experience trichotillomania in their lifetime and It usually begins in late childhood/early puberty. In childhood, it occurs about equally in boys and girls. By adulthood, 80-90% of reported cases are women.
Hair pulling varies greatly in its severity, location on the body, and response to treatment. Without treatment, this tends to be a chronic condition; that may come and go throughout a lifetime and this could lead to one losing a significant amount of hair or even going bald in places over their lifetime. I have seen and treated many people with this condition in the ER.
As I said before, most baldness is caused by genetics (male-pattern baldness, female-pattern baldness, etc. This type of hair loss unfortunately is not preventable. But other types of hair loss can be reversed or at least slowed with different forms of treatment. That's why it's important to not ignore or put off addressing the symptoms of hair loss. You literally want to get to the root of the problem so that you can try to reverse the hair damage if possible and to make sure the hair loss symptom isn't the sign of some greater underlying health conditions, deficiency, or hormonal imbalances.
Additionally, remember to be gentle with your hair, don’t do things like the brush it or tug on it in a way that may create tension on your follicles. And stay out of direct forms of sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet light. And definitely stop smoking if hair loss is a concern for you. Some studies show an association between smoking and baldness. If you want me to do an entire video on ways that can help grow your hair more, or slow down the hair loss process, please let me know that too in the comments below.