Categorized | Women's hair loss

Causes of hair loss in women

Women-Hair-Loss-causes

Unfortunately, hair loss is a problem that women experiencealmost as often as men.  However, female hair loss is treated more effectively than hair loss in males because the cause is mainly due to temporary health problems which are quite treatable.  Although the forms of baldness in men and women are the same, the causes may be different.  Let’s take a look at the common causes of hair loss in females.

Hormonal disorders and Androgenetic Alopecia

Along with the female hormone called estrogen, the female body also produces the male hormone androgen.  Both influence hair follicles and hair nutrition.  In females, the amount of estrogen is incomparably greater than that of androgen.  Due to a number of reasons, such as pathologies of the ovaries (polycystic ovary syndrome) and adrenal glands disorders, the concentration of androgen may sometimes rise higher than required and this may cause Androgenetic Alopecia or female pattern baldness.  As of today, the progression of Androgenetic Alopecia is considered to be of a hereditary nature.

The main mechanism of hormonal baldness is the influence of the active form of the male hormone testosterone dihydrotestosterone or DHT on the hair follicles.  Hair loss is caused by either the increased concentration of DHT in the blood or the increased sensitivity of the hair follicles to this hormone.  DHT affects androgen receptors and reduces the growth phase of the sensitive follicles.  As a result, the hair follicles begin to produce thin and weak hair. Eventually the follicles atrophy.

Due to the same reasons, Androgenetic Alopecia can be triggered by the use of hormonal contraceptives which increase the levels of androgen in blood in the female body.  In some cases, cessation or, vice versa, use of birth control pills, can cause progression of the type of alopecia called Telogen Effluvium wherein too many hair follicles prematurely enter the resting phase at the same time.

Pregnancy

Usually during pregnancy women do not experience any problems with their hair; in fact their hair often becomes thicker and silkier.  This is due to the fact that, during this time, the female body produces additional amount of estrogen which suppress male hormones and slows down the cycle of hair growth and loss allowing the hair to remain in a resting stage longer than usual.  However, after the delivery and particularly during thefirst three monthsafter delivery, there is a significant reduction in the production of estrogen and an increase in the production of androgen. These changes speed up thelife cycle of hair. This is why new moms start losing hair rapidly.  Such increased hair loss can be observed during the first year after the delivery. The specific term for the type of alopecia in post-delivery women is Postpartum Alopecia which is a subtype of Telogen Effluvium.

Age-related changes

For females,menopause often accompanies increased hair loss.  The cessation of female reproductive ability is associated with reduced levels of estrogen which is responsible for the life span of hair.  During this period, the scalp hair may get thin; usually it happens evenly and over the whole head.  Genetically predisposed postmenopausal women develop Androgenetic Alopecia.

Dieting, vitamin and nutrients imbalance

Extreme dieting and food limitations are closely related to hair loss because, during severe dieting, the body stops receiving the nutrients and vitamins required for the normal functioning of the body’s systems and organs.  Particularly dangerous is the deficiency of proteins, amino acids, beta-carotene, C, E and А vitamins, as well as zinc and iron.  However, too much of vitamin A can also trigger significant loss of hair. These listed causes usually lead to development of Telogen Effluvium.

Stress

Stress and nervous tension are quite common causes of hair loss in young women.  A sudden stop in the growth of hair follicles that normally would be in the growth phase for quite a long time, results from the influence of physical overload, constant lack of sleep and chronic fatigue.  The stress and strain of modern life can cause constriction of the scalp capillaries which leads to reduced blood supply to the hair follicle papilla.

It takes some time for hair to thin out – from several weeks up to several months.  Therefore, it may be rather difficult to understand that stress could have triggered the process of hair loss. It is important to remember that physical and emotional overstrain always affects the state of the body which responds, not only by losing hair, but also by brittle nails, teeth pains, migraines, insomnia and worsening of the skin condition.  Usually stress leads to the development of Telogen Effluvium. However, in rare cases and for individuals who are genetically predisposed, it might trigger the progression of Alopecia Areata.

Mechanical, chemical or thermal influence

The health of hair is significantly harmed by sharp temperature changes occurring when a hairdryer or hair iron is used or by wearing tight headwear.  In an effort to keep up with the latesthair fashion, many women have permanent waves, use hair coloring frequently orconstruct complex hairdos with tight hairpins and hair ties.  Hair cannot cope with such ordeals and the result can be thinning or loss of hair.  When this occurs it is called Traction Alopecia.  Baldness may result from the mechanical pulling of hair which can happen accidentally when combing or intentionallywhen suffering from Trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder which can progress following the onset of stress.

Various infectious diseases of the scalp

Scalp diseases of various origin (seborrhea, tinea capitis, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis) often affect hair and cause hair loss. Seborrhea is one of the common causes of alopecia which can lead to Seborrheic Alopecia.  This condition develops when sebaceous glands work improperly causing dandruff, oily scalp, itching and flaking.  In the course of the disease, the pores of the scalp get clogged, the root of the hair cannot function properly and hair slowly gets thinner.

Infectious diseases

Practically any inflammatory process occurring in the body can be the cause of hair loss.  After diseases such as influenza, acute respiratory infection, scarlet fever, typhoid and pneumonia which can have high temperatures and fever associated, the human body takes protective measures and loss of hair can occur.  In the case of acute infections, hair loss is caused by fever especially temperatures above 39 °С., acute intoxication, or in chronic infections, by the direct influence of microorganisms on the hair follicles and circulatory and metabolic disturbances.  Telogen Effluvium is the most common type of alopecia caused by infectious diseases.  With some diseases such as syphilis or some forms of fungal infections, loss of hair has specific characteristics and may become a specific sign of the disease. 

Chemical substances and radiation

Sudden hair loss can be caused by the exposure to radiation and chemical substances and is noticeable usually in 1-3 weeks after the exposure.  This type of alopecia is called Anagen Effluvium (the loss of hairs that are in the growth phase). It most often happens with the therapeutic use of irradiation or cytostatic agents to treat cancerous growths.  Some patients may lose up to 90% of their hair during cancer chemotherapy. However, such hair loss is fully reversible. The hair starts growing once the therapy is over.  Sometimes newly grown hair is even healthier and stronger than before; even its structure and color may change For example, some women who have always had straight hair may be surprised to see that their new after-chemo hair is curly.

In addition, long-term use of certain medicines (retinoids, anticoagulant, anticonvulsive agents, high blood pressure drugs, antidepressants, diuretics, and antibiotics) as well as poisoning with arsenic or thallium may result in hair loss – either Telogen Effluvium or Anagen Effluvium.

Other health issues

Hair loss may be induced by the following:

  • Endocrine system disorders, particularly problems with the thyroid glandhypothyroidism.  This condition causes the slowdown of all metabolic processes and deterioration of the blood circulation in the body including the scalp.  This condition can also cause poor hair nutrition and growth which can lead to the development of Telogen Effluvium.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders, particularly dysbiosis.  In this case, hair loss is caused by the malabsorption of vitamins and nutrients which arerequired for the nutrition and growth of hairand this usually accompanies chronic inflammatory diseases of the stomach and intestine.
  • Extensive blood loss may cause Telogen Effluvium.  Anemia associated with the deficiency of iron and vitamin B12 may develop as a result ofblood loss which may trigger hair loss.  The cause of hair loss in women is often associated with anemia resulting from heavy flowsand recurring uterine bleedings.
  • Surgery or trauma may cause Scarring (Cicatricial) Alopecia – hair follicles are replaced with the scar tissue formed due to surgery or trauma.
  • Immune response of the body can cause Alopecia Areata – the immune system starts attacking hair follicles which then causes hair loss on the scalp and on other parts of the body.   Such condition may develop in people who suffer from Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Rheumatoid Arthritis or other autoimmune diseases.  Some autoimmune disorders may also trigger Scarring (Cicatricial) Alopecia.