The medical term for hair loss is alopecia and depending on the location and severity of your hair loss, your doctor will further refine the diagnosis. It is considered normal to lose some hair on a daily basis, and as per the Mayo Clinic's definition, 50 to 100 strands per day is nothing to worry about. However, hair loss becomes a problem and should be discussed with your doctor, if you are unable to replace the lost hair at a steady rate or excessive hair loss begins suddenly.
Patients with excessive hair loss often complain of one or more of the following symptoms:
- losing large clumps of hair on brushing or washing hair
- noticeable change of texture leading to easy breakage of strands
- thinning of hair
- visible bald spots on the scalp
- a receding hairline
If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms, here are 10 common reasons that can either be an underlying cause or a contributing factor to your hair loss:
- Iron deficiency due to inadequate intake, improper absorption or heavy/consistent blood loss, that keeps you from building up iron reserves. Finding out the cause of the deficiency and correcting it, often helps to improve hair loss.
- Thyroid imbalance. Changes in the texture of your hair can be indicative of a thyroid condition. Your doctor may also check for autoimmune conditions affecting the thyroid hormone production that can mimic both hypo and hyperthyroid states, both of which can be an underlying factor for increased hair loss. Treating the thyroid imbalance can help slow down hair loss significantly.
- Hormonal imbalance. In women, conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or major hormone fluctuations such as in the postpartum period or perimenopause can trigger hair loss. In men, both high and low levels of testosterone can be associated with hair loss. Herbs, supplements or medications that can address these imbalances can often help with slowing down hair loss.
- Damage to follicles. Chemicals in certain hair products such as shampoos, hair coloring agents, styling gels etc can damage hair follicles over time leading to less re-growth. Switching to mild hair products that are suited to your skin and hair type wil help, and to understand the 'toxicity or harshness score' of your current products, check out Environmental Working Group's (EWG) website Skin Deep.
- Protein deficiency. This is uncommon in developed nations, but can be a result of: 1) severe damage to intestinal lining due to diseases like Crohn's, celiac, ulcerative colitis 2) side-effect of treatment protocols like chemotherapy and/or radiation or long term medications that affect nutrient absorption 3) chronic infections in the intestinal tract 4) low pancreatic function 5) functional deficit of enzyme production. Some people many not be protein deficient but may lack specific amino acids, specifically Cysteine, in their diet. Since Cysteine is a major component of keratin, which is the protein that makes up your hair, a shortage can lead to improper keratin formation and therefore, easy breakage and thinning.
- Nutrient Deficiencies. Vitamins such as Vitamin A, E, C, Bs (including Biotin) and minerals such as copper, zinc, iron are all required to maintain healthy hair follicles and chronic lack of these nutrients can cause damage to the follicles leading to loss of hair. With appropriate testing and evaluation of your overall health, your doctor can help you determine if you have nutrient deficiencies that need to be addressed. Just like with protein deficiency, these deficiencies can occur secondary to a primary health concern such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis or as a result of chemotherapy, even certain medications.
- Infection on the scalp. Fungal or bacterial infection on the scalp can create localized inflammation and damage hair follicles causing painful and itchy bald spots, that may become permanent if the infection is untreated for a long time. Simple antibacterial or antifungal topical and even oral treatments can help to resolve localized infections, and prevent further damage to follicles.
- Alopecia areata due to autoimmune disease. This type of hair loss occurs when the body's immune cells attack hair follicles and prevent healthy hair growth. Along with localised treatments, systemic treatment and evaluation of the autoimmune disease may be necessary for seeing a change in hair loss pattern.
- Stress is a common cause of sudden onset hair loss that can be self-corrective, once the stress has passed. Effective stress management techniques combined with a healthy diet, exercise and sleep routine can minimize the effects on stress on the physical body, and therefore, reduce chances of losing excessive hair.
- Genetics. Unfortunately, hair loss is one area where you cannot influence genetics too much even with lifestyle/diet changes. For men, a genetic predisposition towards male pattern balding is hard to fight and though localized treatments may appear to slow down a receding hairline, hair transplants or wigs are the only long term solutions in these cases.
If you are experiencing hair loss and this is new development, get an appointment with your doctor so you can figure out the underlying cause and identify factors that may be affecting the health of your scalp, as there might be more than one!
If you would like to get a consult with one of our doctors at Core Integrative, please email or call us for an appointment.