Causes of hair loss
It is completely normal to lose some hair - about 100 strands - every day as a part of the hair growth cycle . But if you feel your hair is becoming thinner, there are a number of reasons why, including the natural ageing process and hereditary hair loss.
Women with thinning hair often think it's due to something they've done. Whereas, in fact, sustained hair thinning in women is usually hereditary, so don't blame yourself.
It is only occasionally that there may be other causes, such as illness, diet and stress, which we'll go through in this section. The important thing is for you to get a proper diagnosis of your particular thinning hair by seeing your GP.
Thin, fine or thinning hair?
These three terms are often used in the same breath when talking about thinning hair. However, they each mean something different.
If you have thin hair, it means you physically have a small number of hair follicles on your scalp. Blondes normally have the most hairs, around 140,000, with redheads having fewer, around 90,000.
Although blondes have more hair follicles, the actual diameter of their hair strands are normally smaller, making it appear 'fine'. Hairs that are coarse have wider, 'thicker' hairs.
When hair is thinning, it means that the scalp is in the process of losing hair. This can be due to a variety of conditions. The most common cause is androgenetic alopecia (hereditary hair loss).
Women can experience thinning hair for many reasons. First of all, there's aging. Thinning hair is a natural part of aging and is common even among the healthiest women. Once you pass age 20, you shed more than the normal 40 to 100 hairs a day.
Then a combination of factors, including heredity and hormones, causes some hair follicles to get smaller and smaller. Normally, hair grows about a half-inch per month, but this "miniaturization" of the hair follicles prevents the hair from following its regular growth process.
In addition to the natural aging process, particular situations may cause hair thinning, including hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), anemia (low red blood cells), poor diet, certain medications, stress, childbirth, and perimenopause (the time leading up to menopause).
Fortunately, this type of hair thinning is usually reversible, once the underlying cause is treated.
By far the biggest cause of thinning hair in women is a persistent condition called androgenetic alopecia , also referred to as "hereditary hair thinning." Hereditary hair thinning affects more than 30 million women in the United States.
Other disorders that cause hair to thin include alopecia areata , telogen effluvium , and traumatic alopecia , all of which are discussed in detail in this site.
The main characteristics of alopecia areata are that the hair loss often occurs abruptly and tends to be patchy.
Unlike androgenetic alopecia , most cases of alopecia areata are not hereditary, although there may be a genetic component for up to 20% of people with the disorder. It is the result of an immune system disorder that causes hair follicles to stop producing hair.
Alopecia areata affects about 2% of the U.S. population. Though it occurs in both genders and in all age groups, children and young adults are affected most often.
Causes of alopecia areata include thyroid disorders and vitiligo (a skin condition characterized by smooth, hairless, white patches of skin), which are more common among young people than among the general population.
Because alopecia areata is an auto-immune disease, you should consult your doctor immediately if you notice sudden hair loss.
Symptoms range from losing small round patches of hair on the scalp to losing all hair, including body hair. There are several ways doctors treat this disease; the best way is determined by the patient's age and the extent of the hair loss.
Although alopecia areata can be psychologically devastating, in milder forms of the disease the hair follicles are not destroyed, so hair usually grows back. In an advanced form of the disease, "alopecia totalis," the hair loss may become resistant to treatment.
In the interim, there are styling tips to help you deal with the hair loss caused by alopecia areata.
Over 43 million American women have experienced thinning hair, so you are not alone. Depending on what type of hair thinning you're experiencing, there are a variety of ways to deal with it - and even overcome it.
The sooner you take action, the better.
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