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Also called alopecia (al-o-PEE-shah)
Everyone loses hair. It is normal to lose about 50-100 hairs every day. If you see bald patches or lots of thinning, you may be experiencing hair loss.
There are many causes of hair loss. Women may notice hair loss after giving birth. People under a lot of stress can see noticeable hair loss. Some diseases and medical treatments can cause hair loss.
The most common cause of hair loss is a medical condition called hereditary hair loss. About 80 million men and women in the United States have this type of hair loss. Other names for this type of hair loss are:
Luckily, most causes of hair loss can be stopped or treated. Anyone troubled by hair loss should see a dermatologist. These doctors specialize in treating our skin, hair, and nails.
Photograph used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
Hair loss may cause gradual thinning, bald patches, or complete baldness. The photos below some of the different types of hair loss.
Photos used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
Millions of people experience hair loss. Some people see their hair re-grow without doing anything. Others need treatment for their hair to re-grow. Sometimes, hair will not re-grow.
To find out what is possible, you should see a dermatologist. These doctors specialize in treating diseases that affect the skin, hair, and nails.
The reasons for hair loss are many. When hair loss begins suddenly, the cause may be due to illness, diet, medicine, or childbirth. If hair loss is gradual and becomes more noticeable with each passing year, a person may have hereditary hair loss. Certain hair care practices also can cause noticeable hair loss.
The following describes some of the many things that cause hair loss:
Some prescription medicines can cause hair loss. These include:
Your hairstyle and even some of the products you use on your hair can cause hair loss.
Years of wearing hair in a style that pulls on the hair such as a ponytail, cornrows, or braids can cause a type of hair loss known as traction alopecia.
The following practices often cause the hair to break:
For many people, hair is more elastic when wet. This means it breaks off more easily than dry hair. When hair breakage occurs, the hair appears shaggy or too thin. For people who are of African descent, their hair is not more elastic when wet.
Because so many things can cause hair loss, a dermatologist acts like a detective. A dermatologist may begin by asking questions. The dermatologist will want to know whether the hair loss happened suddenly or gradually. Knowing this helps to eliminate causes.
A dermatologist also will ask what medicines you take, what allergies you have, and whether you have been dieting. It is important to give the dermatologist accurate information. Like a murder mystery, the slightest clue can solve the case. Women may be asked about their periods, pregnancies, and menopause.
The dermatologist also will carefully look at your scalp and hair. During an exam, the dermatologist may pull on your hair. Sometimes a dermatologist needs to pull out a hair to get the necessary evidence. And sometimes a dermatologist needs to look at the hair on the rest of your body to see whether there is too little or too much hair in other areas.
Sometimes the evidence lies in your scalp. The dermatologist may remove a small piece of the scalp. This is called a scalp biopsy. A dermatologist can quickly and safely perform a scalp biopsy during an office visit. A scalp biopsy can be essential to solving the case. Sometimes, a blood test is necessary.
Because so many things can cause hair loss, it can take time to find the cause. You may need to make a few appointments.
Just as there are many causes, there are many treatments for hair loss. Dermatologists recommend treating hair loss early. Early means before you lose a lot of hair. Hair loss is harder to treat when a person has a lot of hair loss.
One or more of the following treatments may be part of your treatment plan.Treatment available without a prescription
The type of procedure that a dermatologist recommends will depend on how much hair you have lost. To achieve the best results, a dermatologist may use one or more of the following procedures:
Once your dermatologist knows what is causing the hair loss, your dermatologist can tell you what to expect. Sometimes hair loss does not need treatment. The hair will start to re-grow on its own. In some cases, changing what you do will stop the hair loss, allowing your hair to start re-growing. Sometimes treatment can restore hair.
*Photograph used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. This photograph was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Vol. # 60, Gathers RC, Jankowski M, Eide M, et al. “Hair grooming practices and central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia,” 660-8. Copyright Elsevier (2009). Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
**Photo used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides
Dermatologists often offer their patients who have hair loss the following tips.
1. Practice good hair care. Many people are surprised to learn that a hairstyle or even the way they wash and dry their hair has contributed to their hair loss.
2. Do not stop taking a medicine that your doctor prescribed. Some medicines can cause hair loss. Doctors warn that you should not stop taking a medicine that your doctor prescribed if you see hair loss. Immediately stopping some medicines can cause serious side effects.
If you think a medicine may be causing hair loss, talk with the doctor who prescribed the medicine. Ask if the medicine could be causing your hair loss. If the medicine seems to be the cause, ask your doctor whether you can take another medicine.
3. Realize that your hair loss may be temporary. Some things in life cause temporary hair loss. These include illness, childbirth, and stress.
During a very stressful time, your body may react by causing more hairs than normal to go into resting phase. The medical term for this condition is telogen (tee-lə-jen) effluvium (ih-flu-vee-uhm). During telogen effluvium, the body sheds a dramatic amount of hair. For most people, the hair will start to grow again without any help.
4. Make an appointment to see a dermatologist. Many things can cause hair loss. If hair loss concerns you, be sure to see a dermatologist. A dermatologist can find the cause and tell you what you what to expect.
Treatment for hair loss helps many people feel better. Hair loss, especially in women, can cause low self-esteem. Many women feel unattractive and embarrassed. A dermatologist can offer solutions to help you feel and look your best.
Social network for people living with hair loss.