A certain degree of hair loss is normal for both men and women. Most people shed a small number of hairs – about 50 to 100 – every day, but thinning and bald spots are an indication of more extreme hair loss.
There are a number of conditions that lead to hair loss. Hereditary baldness, androgenetic alopecia, is the most common reason for thinning and baldness. Typical signs of this condition include bald patches in men or a widening part in women.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that leads to hair loss. This occurs when the body attacks its own hair causing smooth patches of hair loss on the scalp or body.
Rarely, scarring or cicatricial alopecia is the cause of hair loss. This hair loss is due to a disease that kills the hair follicles. Eventually, scar tissue develops, preventing regrowth.
Central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia is a hair loss that begins in the center of the scalp and gradually extends out, leaving the scalp shiny and smooth. The condition is most commonly seen in women of African descent.
Hair loss is sometimes related to a disease, medical condition or medical treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy for cancer. Ringworm, thyroid disease, anemia, severe infection, stress, childbirth, hormonal changes, surgery, poor nutrition, dieting and certain medications are also associated with hair loss. But not all hair loss is related to health, some hair care products and poor or improper hair care can also cause hair to break and fall out at a rapid rate.
With so many potential causes, identifying the reason for hair loss can be challenging. If you visit your dermatologist for hair loss, you will likely be asked a number of questions about the timing of your hair loss, medical history, medications, diet and other factors that may play a role.
Your dermatologist will also examine your scalp and possibly perform a scalp biopsy or blood test.
Sometimes, hair regrows without treatment. When treatment is necessary, depending on the cause of hair loss, over-the-counter medications or laser devices to stimulate hair growth may be helpful.
Prescription medications such as finasteride – a pill that blocks the male hormone, dihydrotestosterone – or corticosteroids to reduce chronic scalp inflammation may be recommended.
Hair transplant procedures, scalp reduction, scalp expansion or scalp flap surgery are other treatment options used to cover bare spots and reduce the appearance of balding.
Today, there are many options for both men and women who suffer from hair loss. Schedule an appointment with your dermatologist to discuss hair loss causes and treatment options.