The Thyroid Connection and Hair Loss
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck. It produces hormones that regulate many processes throughout the body. Hair loss is rarely the only sign of a thyroid problem because healthy thyroid hormone levels additionally control your energy, weight and cholesterol. Healthy thyroid hormone levels are important for your hair as well as your overall health. Dr. Ruthie Harper is listed as one of the “Top 10 Thyroid Doctors in Texas” and as part of your evaluation will perform a complete testing for optimal thyroid function-critical for healthy hair.
PCOS and Hair Loss
Equally important is an evaluation for PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome. Women with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance that causes them to make higher levels of androgens (male hormones) causing extra hair to grow on the face and body, while hair on the scalp becomes thinner. PCOS can also lead to irregular menstrual cycles, acne, and weight gain.
Autoimmune Hair Loss
Another condition called Alopecia areata causes hair to fall out in startling patches. The problem in this hair loss condition is the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks healthy hair follicles causing hair loss. In most cases, the damage is not permanent. A recent study showed that gene alterations at the MTHFR gene 677T and other genes involved with the methylation process were linked with autoimmune hair loss. Methylation defects may affect up to 45 percent of the population or nearly one out of every two individuals. When Alopecia areata occurs, the missing patches usually grow back in six months to a year. In rare cases, people may lose all of the hair on their scalp and body- a condition known as alopecia universalis.
Androgenetic Alopecia- Female Pattern Hair Loss
A woman’s family history should always be explored, asking if the patient’s mother, aunts, or grandmothers have experienced hair loss. Magnification on the scalp will show if a woman’s hair follicles vary in size – with some thick and others thin indicating androgenetic alopecia that affects about 30 million American women. According to the America Academy of Dermatology, 50% of women see this most of the time in their late 50s or 60s, although it can happen at any time.
Typically, each time a normal hair follicle is shed, it is replaced by hair that is equal in size. But in women with female-pattern hair loss, the new hair is finer and thinner – a more miniaturized version of itself. In androgenetic alopecia, hair follicles are shrinking and eventually the follicle may stop making hair altogether.
Infections and Hair Loss
Ringworm is a fungal infection that can affect the scalp, triggering a distinct pattern of hair loss that occurs in itchy round patches. Bald areas can appear scaly and red. Ringworm of the scalp is treated with antifungal medication. The fungus is easily spread by direct contact, so family members should be checked for symptoms too.
Hormonal Shifts and Hair Loss
Hormonal changes which occur with menopause are critical to address for a full healthy head of hair. During menopause, changing estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels can create imbalances where hair loss is accelerated and new hair growth is slowed.
Pregnancy and Hair Loss
Many women notice fuller hair during pregnancy due to hormonal changes that keep resting hairs from falling out as they normally would. After childbirth, when hormones suddenly shift a sudden and sometimes alarming amount of hair may be lost all at one time. It may take up to two years for hair to return to normal without proper care and intervention. Other causes of hair loss occurring simultaneously should always be explored.
Anemia and Hair Loss
Studies have shown that many women experiencing hair thinning or hair loss are iron deficient. Replenishing the iron stores of balding patients increases their chances of hair growth in most and stops hair loss in nearly every patient.
However, assuming iron supplementation is the universal answer to hair loss problems is dangerous. Taking iron supplementation when not needed can lead to iron overload- a serious condition that can damage the liver and other vital organs.
There various reasons why a woman may not have enough iron. Include: heavy periods with significant bleeding, postpartum blood loss (blood lost while carrying and during the delivery of a baby), ulcers or inflammation of the stomach with bleeding of the digestive tract.
Medication causing Hair Loss
A little known side effect of birth control pills is the potential for hair loss, particularly in women with a family history of hair loss. Other medications linked to hair loss include blood thinners and medicines that treat high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, and depression.
Dieting and Hair Loss
You may lose more than weight with a crash diet. Many people notice hair loss 3-6 months after losing more than 15 pounds, especially if the weight loss program does not include the foods and vitamin supplementation critical for healthy hair.
Hair Styling and Hair Loss
Hairstyles such as extensions, cornrows or tight ponytails along with tight rollers can irritate the scalp and cause hair loss called traction alopecia. Hair dyes, chemical treatments, bad brushes, tight rollers, blow dryers, and flat irons — can result in damage, breakage and further hair loss. Removing the source of irritation and reestablishing scalp health is critical since long-term use of these styles can cause scarring of the scalp and permanent hair loss. This includes brushing too much and towel drying aggressively when the hair is wet.
This emotional/behavioral condition causes a compulsive tendency to pull hair from the scalp, brows or eyelashes. Hair pullers tend to concentrate their pulling from one selected area resulting in patchy hair loss instead of diffuse hair loss. Hair loss due to this cause cannot be treated effectively until the psychological or emotional reasons for trichotillomania are effectively addressed.
Cancer Treatment and Hair Loss
Hair loss is a common side effect of two cancer treatments: chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Both treatments can damage hair follicles, triggering dramatic hair loss. And while damage is almost always short-lived, healthy hair regrowth can be supported by a comprehensive hair restoration program.
Stress and Hair Loss
Extreme physical or emotional stress from surgery or illness can cause a sudden and often frightening loss of hair called telogen effluvium. This occurs when the hair follicles stop growing and lie dormant and fall out within two to three months. Being that telogen effluvium is oftentimes caused by stress, surgery or illness, hair growth is typically restored within 6 to 9 months.