Get a better understanding of a condition that impacts millions of people.
Hair loss affects millions of men and women each day. Regardless of age or sex, it can be a distress for those dealing with it.
Types of hair loss
The three most common types of hair loss include pattern baldness and thinning, alopecia areata and telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium occurs for several reasons. Stress itself can be associated with hair loss but not necessarily cause it. Scarring alopecias are a group of disorders that destroy the hair follicle, replacing it with scar tissue and permanent destruction of the hair follicle. Non-scarring alopecia is more common and associated with hair cycle abnormalities.
There are natural and preventable causes of hair loss. The first factor is genetics, the hand of cards you were dealt at birth. Other natural causes are damage/breakage from weathering and aging. Controllable causes are hair treatments like blowouts, application of high heat and traction alopecia, which is caused by wearing too many tight pony tails, braids or extensions. Non-scarring hair loss may also occur with medical conditions such as low iron stores, anemia, thyroid disease or too much production of testosterone from the ovaries or the hormone DHEA-S produced by the adrenal glands.
Hair serves more than the functions of an insulator and a protectant from ultraviolet light. Hair often creates a style and provides a sense of beauty and confidence. Then factor in hair loss and it’s not uncommon for confidence to decline.
For the person experiencing thinning, shedding or patterned baldness, it’s all the same. Individuals will cope with hair loss in their own way. One thing to keep in mind is the average individual can shed approximately 125 hair fibers each day. This is normal. However, this will be more noticeable for those who do not have regrowth happening, or for those with thinning hair.
If a concern is present, a dermatologist will help identify the type of hair loss and help explain why it’s happening. They will look further to see if there’s a pattern or health problem behind it. Then, a treatment plan can be discussed. Whether treating hair loss with medications, devices, platelet-rich plasma or just treating inflammation directly, there are treatments and coping methods for all.
Regardless of the type, coping is a natural process in dealing with hair loss. Talk to your doctor for ways to regrow hair or prevent further hair loss.
Maria K. Hordinsky, M.D., is Chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota. She is the current President of the North American Hair Research Society and Chair of the Clinical Research Advisory Council of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. She regularly lectures and teaches on hair diseases and divides her time between department administration, clinical research and seeing patients with residents and medical students in her private practice associated with University of Minnesota Physicians.