Hair Loss

Carolyn is a lovely lady who came to my office recently complaining that her hair was falling out.  This is a common problem that primary care doctors see.  Most of the patients are women, and often it is difficult to figure out why hair loss is happening.

If you’re a woman and you’re losing your hair, it can be terrifying!  Many of our standards of beauty in America, right or wrong, center on thick glossy healthy hair.  When we see a woman who has hair loss, we think of chemotherapy and assume she is unhealthy when that may be completely inaccurate.

What are the causes of hair loss?  In general, they can be broken down into 5 main categories.

Autoimmune

This type of hair loss is pretty obvious.  There are well-defined patches of bald skin on the scalp.  Sometimes the skin is perfectly normal, and sometimes there is scarring present.  A doctor should be able to diagnose these causes of hair loss pretty readily by discussing symptoms and doing a physical examination, and discuss treatment.

Trauma

How can you cause trauma to your HAIR?  Easy.  You pull on it.  Women who wear their hair tightly pulled back all the time will lose hair by injuring the follicles.  This is most often seen in African-American girls and women who wear their hair in cornrows and other tight braids.  It is very common to see receding hairlines in these patients as the hair follicles at the edge of the hair field are lost.

We also see hair loss from repeated pulling on the hair, a nervous habit called trichotillomania.  Treatment for anxiety will reduce the urge to pull or twirl the hair and stop the hair loss from happening.

Hormones

By far the most common cause of hair loss in America is male pattern baldness.  Everyone is familiar with the bald-spot-and-receding-hairline pattern in our fathers, grandfathers, uncles and other older male relatives.

Did you know women can get male pattern hair loss too?  It happens after menopause, when the hormone balance in the female body shifts to be more male-predominant.  Women tend to have more of an all-over-the-scalp or general thinning of the hair rather than a receding hairline or bald spot on the crown.

Most people who check with Dr. Google about their hair loss are familiar with underactive thyroid as a cause of hair loss.  It is true that hypothyroidism has hair loss as one of its symptoms.  Thyroid medication can also cause hair loss.

Another hormonal cause of hair loss is the shedding of hair after childbirth.  About 3 months after a baby is born, Mom usually starts losing the extra hair she grew in pregnancy.  Don’t worry, the new mom won’t have to worry about going bald in addition to getting back into her pre-pregnancy clothes.  The hair loss stops after a few weeks and usually her hair is the same as it was before she got pregnant.

Stress

This is an extremely common and extremely frustrating cause of hair loss.  When the body goes through a major stress, physical or mental, it can cause the hair to go into “sleeping” (called telogen) phase.  Surgery, childbirth, or the death of a close family member can trigger it.  The body just doesn’t have the resources to put into growing hair, so it conserves those resources in the most sensible way it can.

About 3 months after the stress has resolved, the hair follicles want to start growing hair again.  Unfortunately the follicle can’t start growing the same hair shaft again.  It has to shed that hair shaft and start over.  All those hair shafts being shed at the same time is what makes a person fear their hair is falling out.  Like the new mom above, the hair won’t ALL fall out, and after a few weeks looking at the hairline will show new, short, fine hairs growing.  This is reassurance that stress was the cause and that the body is back to business as usual as far as hair goes.

Nutrition

Nutritional deficiencies are another common cause of problems with the hair.  Very commonly after bariatric surgery we will see patients complaining of hair loss.  Calorie restriction from ordinary dieting, not just the super-restrictive diet after bariatric surgery, will cause some hair loss too.

Protein, vitamins and minerals are important nutrients for healthy hair growth and if you’re not getting enough your hair will suffer.  Nutrients to pay close attention to as far as hair growth goes include iron, zinc, biotin, omega-3 fats, protein, vitamin D and trace minerals like selenium.

Your doctor can check your iron and vitamin D levels.  Everyone needs an omega-3 supplement because almost nobody gets enough in their diet.  Same with a good-quality multivitamin.

If you’re having trouble with hair loss, see your doctor to make sure there isn’t a potentially serious cause for it like hypothyroidism or iron deficiency.  If no cause turns up, I invite you to consider trying a few months of Vitalizing Plan which contains your comprehensive multivitamin, Vitamin D, fish oil and probiotics to boot.  Everyone who uses Vitalizing Plan tells me their hair and nails are improved from using it.  And since it’s guaranteed, there’s no risk.

What have you got to lose, except more hair?  Give your doctor a call and check for medical causes of hair loss.  If s/he doesn’t turn up a cause, let me know and we’ll talk about nutrition!  You can email me at drjen@jenniferwurstmd.com or call 888-741-9153 to set up a time to talk.

QUESTION: Do you have problems with hair loss?

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.