Everyone experiences hair loss at some point in their lives, and some types are more common than others. The most common type is androgenetic alopecia, better known as male pattern baldness. This tends to affect around half of men. Although hair loss, sometimes known as alopecia, is a natural process in most circumstances, it can be very distressing to the person involved. Some people may find it affects their self image and esteem, in which case there are ways to slow or prevent hair loss. If you are concerned about your hair loss, speak to your doctor and they will be able to identify the cause of it and advise you on the best hair loss treatment for you.
There are several types of alopecia treatment available to buy online, including tablets or a foam which you apply directly to the affected area. This foam is a type of hair growth medication which can actually stimulate more growth in follicles, and so help you grow back your hair if you are concerned about a receding hairline. Certain types of hair loss medication should only be used by men.
"Hair loss is a problem which affects everyone at some point in their lives, and is nothing to be ashamed about. However, some people find this affects their self-esteem and would like to do something about it if possible, as thinning hair and a receding hairline at a young age can make them looking prematurely old. Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss and it is a hereditary condition. Alopecia can be slowed or prevented (and very occasionally reversed) by using medications such as Avodart, Propecia or Regaine for Men."
How much hair loss is normal?
Hair loss is a totally natural process that everyone experiences day in, day out. Most people lose 50-100 hairs a day, which may seem like a lot, particularly if you notice it as you’re showering or brushing your hair. People with darker hair may notice their hair falling out more too, purely for the fact that it’s more visible on furniture or items of clothing. Your hair grows from pockets in your skin known as follicles. You have roughly five million follicles on your body, and around a hundred thousand of these are on your head. Your hair is one of the fastest growing parts of your body, and as you might have guessed, it is dead as soon as it reaches above skin level. That’s why you can’t feel your hair when you touch it, but pulling a hair out hurts, because you are pulling it out the follicle. Hair begins growing in the follicle and is pushed out, but not all of your follicles are growing hair at the same time. Each follicle works for a few years, and then takes a break. It’s when they’re on their break that the hair is likely to fall out. The combination of having so many hair follicles, and them working on rotation, means that if you are losing hair at a normal rate, no matter how much seems to get stuck in your shower drain, you never get sudden bald patches. Natural balding happens because some of the hair follicles have stopped working so they just don’t grow any more hair.
All the follicles on your body repeat this process of growing and pausing growth, but your body hair has a shorter cycle of around a month as opposed to several years, which is why hair on your arms and legs is much shorter. However, not all hair follows this pattern, and their may be other factors, such as your genes, an illness you’re suffering from or a medication’s side effects which can cause you to suffer from hair loss that is different and more pronounced.
What kinds of hair loss are there?
If your hair loss is not of the natural pace that comes with getting older, it can be classed as one of several types. If you speak to your doctor about it, they will be able to identify the type of hair loss you are suffering from by looking at it. The main categories of hair loss are:
- Male and female pattern baldness. Male pattern baldness is the most common kind of hair loss, and affects around half of all men by their 50s. It is hereditary, and is characterised by a receding hairline, followed by thinning hair on the crown and temples. Less is understood about the causes and genetics impact of female pattern baldness.
- Alopecia areata. This is a type of hair loss which causes patches of baldness mostly on the scalp, but they can appear anywhere on the body, that are about the size of a large coin. Most of the time the hair grows back in a few months, thinly at first but eventually returning to its original thickness and colour. Occasionally the illness gets worse though. It can develop into alopecia totalis (where no hair grows on the scalp) or alopecia universalis (where no hair grows either on the scalp or anywhere else on the body). These types of alopecia are caused by problems with your immune system, and are more common among people who have another kinds of immune system difficulties too. Alopecia areata is most common in 15-29 year olds but can affect anyone.
- Scarring alopecia. If you develop this kind of alopecia, your hair loss will be permanent. This is because the condition, which is usually a side effect of another illness, is caused by permanent damage to the hair follicle. Conditions which damage the skin such as scleroderma, lichen planus or discoid lupus can result in scarring alopecia, sometimes known as cicatricial alopecia.
- Anagen effluvium. This is a kind of temporary hair loss caused by medications and treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiotherapy. It can occur on both the scalp and the rest of the body. If it begins to fall out in patches, some patients choose to shave their hair off to have an even effect across their head. Generally, the hair begins to grow back a few months after the chemotherapy has stopped.
- Telogen effluvium. This is a type of hair loss that is more likely to result in thinning of the hair instead of balding. It will probably affect your scalp, but not your body hair. There are a variety of causes for it, including your body reacting to hormonal changes, emotional or physical stress, some illnesses and medications, or a sudden change in your diet. Your hair will usually stop falling out and begin to regrow after around six months.
What can cause hair loss?
The triggers which can cause hair loss are many and varied. These are a few of the major causes:
- Emotional stress. This can be related to stress at work, having just had a child, moving house, going through a divorce, or having lost a loved one. Anything that cause cause you intense emotional stress can also cause you hair loss.
- Physical stress. Giving birth, being involved in a car crash and other similar big event which affect you physically can also cause hair loss.
- Underlying illnesses. There are all kinds of illnesses which can cause you to suffer from hair loss, such as anaemia, having a hypoactive thyroid or mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression which can up your stress levels.
- Certain medications. Blood thinners, anti depressants, beta blockers, anti seizure medications and the contraceptive pill are among those which can cause you to have hair fall out.
- Hormonal changes. This will apply more to women than men, but hormonal changes can have a huge impact on hair growth. Some women find they lose more hair at certain points in their menstrual cycle, and a lot of women tend to lose hair more quickly after the menopause. Equally, some women find hair loss to be a side effect when they start taking the pill, or they change to a different type of contraceptive pill.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome. This is a common condition which affects the function of a woman’s ovaries, and can have side effects including weight gain, irregular and painful periods and excessive hair growth on the face and body. However it is also associated with hair thinning due to the imbalance of hormones.
Are there any health impacts of hair loss?
If you are concerned about your hair loss, you should speak to your GP. They’ll be able to quickly and easily tell you what kind of hair loss you are experiencing, and if you can expect it to grow back, and in what time frame. They’ll also be able to identify the cause, which in the vast majority of cases, will be either natural, or the side effect of a medication or illness you’re already aware of. Hair loss is unlikely to be the first symptom of an illness you notice, so in that respect, there are no long term health impacts.
The biggest impact of hair loss is the loss itself, which should by no means be over looked or underplayed. Losing your hair can have a huge impact on your life and self image, and can be a defining point of your life if you lose it before you expect to. It may feel like you’re losing a part of yourself, but bear in mind there are ways to manage and hide the problem if you wish to. Losing your hair can lead to problems with your self image and can make you feel anxious and isolated. If you’re losing your hair due to stress, it may even exacerbate the condition.
What treatments are available?
The way in which you lose your hair will affect the way in which it can be treated. If your hair is falling out in clumps and you are going bald in patches, for example as a side effect of chemotherapy, you may wish to get ahead of the curve and shave the rest of your hair off. Some people find that this bold approach makes them feel more comfortable and helps them come to terms with the side effects of chemo.
If you are experiencing hair loss due to stress, you may decide the best course of action is to find the root cause of the problem and manage your stress. This could be by taking up a hobby such as running to help relieve your stress, by speaking to a counsellor to overcome your worries, or by trying to overcome the problem yourself with techniques such as meditation.
Your doctor may conclude that your hair loss is a side effect of medication, in which case they may change the medication you are on. However, you should not stop taking your medication without your doctors guidance as this may be more of a problem than the hair loss alone
You may choose to cover up your hair loss with a wig. There are two types of wig available: synthetic and real hair. Synthetic wigs are cheaper, but can be itchy and hot, and usually only last 6 to 9 months. Although real hair wigs are more expensive, they last longer (around 3 to 4 years) and they look more natural. It’s usually easier to look after synthetic wigs than real hair ones.
There are also medicine based preventive strategies for managing hair loss, and these are available from Doctor-4-U. They should only be used under your doctor’s guidance, and women should not use them. These treatments include finasteride, durasteride and minoxidil. They may not work for everyone, and their effectiveness will greatly depend on the type of hair loss you are suffering from. If the follicle itself has been damaged, you will never be able to regrow the hair that was once there. Also, these treatments will only be useful for the time during which you are using them. If you stop using them, the hair loss will resume. They are best used to manage androgenetic alopecia, the most common type of hair loss. Results may take a while to show.
These medications work in different ways. For example, minoxidil works to stimulate blood flow to the hair follicles, encouraging them to grow. If it works for you, this type of treatment may even help regrow your hair. Other medications, such as finasteride, will be able to reduce hair thinning. All medications have side effects and you should speak with your doctor about which is best for you before beginning a course of medication. As some of these medications can affect your hormones, they may make you more prone to serious health problems such as an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Make sure any medications you take do not clash with each other which may worsen the side effects.