Getting to the Real Root of Hair Loss

There is so much relevance tied to grooming and our appearance.  And one of the first things that people notice about you (personally or professionally) is your hair.   Many assumptions are made about individuals who experience baldness or noticeably thinning hair, and how we look on a day to day basis is closely connected to our confidence, sense of attractiveness and feelings of self-worth.

It starts happening so gradually, that you might not even notice until someone mentions it to you.  The average human being has more than 100,000 hair follicles on their head.  But specific health conditions, stress and clinical hair loss can start to be alarming.   That’s when most American’s turn to over-the-counter remedies, which frankly do not work (no matter what the infomercial tells you).

The average man takes about seven years before they get serious about taking action on hair loss. Let’s finally get to the real root of  thinning hair and identify it as a personal health condition that can be addressed successfully with clinical and pharmaceutical therapies.

Androgenetic Hair Loss

95% of hair loss in men is Androgenetic Alopecia.  Also known as Male Pattern Baldness or Pattern Hair Loss, androgenetic alopecia is a genetically inherited.  It causes a gradual change of the terminal hairs (strong and thick hair shafts and follicles that develop at puberty) to thinner, finer “miniaturized” hairs. You begin to feel that your hair is lacking the volume it once had. You notice your hair thinning and you notice having a hard time covering your scalp whereas before you couldn’t see it if you tried.  The weaker hairs are prone to breakage, damage and begin to fall out more rapidly than the strong, thick hairs you once had.  Some patients are alarmed at how quickly the miniaturized and vellus hairs are lost, and how noticeable the thin patches become visually.

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia Areata is a non-scarring and common form of hair loss that typically results in round or oval shaped patches of baldness on the head.  Men and women are almost equally affected by this kind of hair loss and, statistically, the problem is most prevalent in patients around the age of 25 years.

The instances of developing Alopecia Areata are low, with approximately 1.7% of Americans who develop the condition annually.  There is a strong hereditary link (typically inherited from the mother) with up to 42% of new cases where a family history of the diagnosis is present. Individuals with chronic autoimmune diseases such as lupus, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, vitiligo and arthritis are more commonly diagnosed.

Hair loss from Alopecia Areata is rapid, and develops quickly into noticeable bald patches.  Often, simple cases of AA spontaneously remit, the hair regrows and the once-bald patch is unnoticeable.

Traction Alopecia

Okay, so when your Mom told you that wearing your baseball hat all the time was a bad idea, she wasn’t wrong.  And for women, while going to bed with your hair tied up or braided may be more comfortable (especially when the weather gets hot), both behaviors can put you at increased risk of hair loss from traction alopecia, which is related to cosmetic or lifestyle choices we make every day, that damage our hair.

Individuals most at risk for traction alopecia are those  who wear wigs, extensions and tight braids.

Therapeutic treatment for traction alopecia includes medications like minoxidil,  and lifestyle counseling to help resolve the problem.  Although it occurs infrequently, unresolved traction alopecia can lead to folliculitis and scarring of the scalp, resulting in permanent hair loss.

Female Pattern Hair Loss

Hormonal imbalance is one leading cause of hair loss for women.  Hormones play an important role in regulating hair growth, and can ‘flip the switch’ during periods of hormone imbalance like puberty, pregnancy, menopause or after the diagnoses of an autoimmune disease like diabetes, thyroid dysfunction as well as mood disorders including depression and clinical anxiety.   An excess of androgens (andocrine disorders) including PCO (polycystic ovarian syndrome) can cause hair loss.

Women are also more statistically prone to iron deficiency, which can lead to thinning hair.  Dietary balance is key to maintaining healthy hair growth, and a deficiency of vitamin B12 (sourced from animal proteins) can be common for individuals who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.  Lifestyle and nutritional changes can help restore positive and noticeable hair regrowth after 6-8 weeks.