There are many types of hair loss, but we can categorize them generally into three types of categories: hormonal causes, genetic causes, and disease processes.
Hormonal Causes of Hair Loss:
Without a doubt, hormonal causes of hair loss is the number one reason why people loose their hair. This applies to both men and women. What hormones are we talking about? Some of these hormones that are involved in hair growth including thyroid hormones, DHT, cortisol, and estrogen to name a few.
Perhaps the most common form of hair loss is caused by dihydrotestosterone or DHT. DHT is a product of testosterone metabolism. Scientist are not exactly sure why, but this hormone damages the hair follicle, usually on the top and crown of the head. As a result, we see male and female-patterned baldness with that stereotypical receding hairline look. In men, an abundance of DHT is usually the culprit, but in women we find that lower estrogen levels after menopause stop counterbalancing the effect of testosterone, and hair thinning can occur. Without the counterbalance of estrogen, the hair gets more susceptible to DHT and we begin to see loss.
While male-patterned baldness is the most common form of hair loss in men, hormonal hair loss in women tend to be from other hormones. We already mentioned the lack of estrogen, but hypothyroidism can be a culprit as well. People with low thyroid hormones tend to have stiff, thin, brittle hairs which fall out prematurely. While I see this frequently in practice, I also see a great deal of hair loss from women under large amounts of stress (too much cortisol). Stress does funny things to the body, and I will often see hair loss as a result as hairs are “shocked” into telogen phase instead of the growth phase of anagen.
Genetic Causes of Hair Loss
Genetics and hormones are closely linked, as your genes often tell your body how to regulate hormones. As such, as we age our hair can naturally thin. To what degree is often determined by genetics. During a consultation, I always get a good genetic history as this can tell a story of what patients can often expect. If your grandparents, siblings, and parents all had hair loss, there is a good chance that you will too! There is a misnomer that hair loss comes from the mother’s side of the family, or that it skips a generation. This is not the case. Those bad genes can come from anyone in your family tree!
Genetics and hormones aren’t the only culprits to hair loss; there are several disease processes that could be at work too. Some are temporary; such as ring worm, which is a fungal infection, but others are more permanent. Alopecia areata is a disease where the immune system attacks hair follicles. Lupus and lichen planus can result in permanent hair loss because they affect the way the body heals and scars. Medications can cause hair loss, such as chemotherapy agents, high blood pressure meds, and depression medications. Anemias and low iron levels can also be an issue. The good news is that many of these issues with hair loss can be fixed if the underlying disease is treated.
That is a quick overview of the different types of hair loss that exist. This is by no means a comprehensive list. For the next segment of this blog we will look at different treatment options that can be done for hair loss. If you have questions, please feel free to set up a free consultation either online or by calling the office. We would love to help you out!