We all lose strands of hair throughout the day. It’s normal to notice a few strands on a hair brush, on your pillow or pulled out by your towel every so often. In fact, the average person loses around 70 to 100 hairs every day due to the natural growth and dormancy cycle of the strands.
However, when more and more strands begin to fall out every day, you’ll know something is amiss. Perhaps you’re able to easily remove healthy hair with your hands or you start to see thinning patches or even bald spots on your scalp. This type of hair loss is not normal.
There are many different types of hair loss, caused by things ranging from hair damage to chronic stress. However, some hair loss can actually be indicative of a more serious underlying health problem that you’ll want to address.
What leads to hair loss?
Hair loss can come in many forms. Sometimes, it is perfectly natural, caused by the thinning of strands and follicles as women age. Other times, it comes on suddenly due to a traumatic event.
Unfortunately, some hair loss is much more serious.
Androgenic alopecia (also known as male or female pattern baldness) is a genetic condition that affects the levels of sex hormones in men and women. These hormone shifts can cause hair loss in distinct patterns, including receding hair lines and bald spots in men and thinning or balding crowns in women.
Although this condition is quite common, it can actually come with some risks. Studies have shown that sensitivity to the hormone DHT and increased levels of testosterone may actually put men at risk for heart disease, obesity and prostate cancer. In this way, male pattern baldness may indicate potential health risks in the future.
Women may be at risk for health complications due to shifting hormone levels, as well.
Alopecia areata is another form of hair loss characterized by an underlying autoimmune disease. The condition occurs when the immune system mistakenly begins to attack the hair follicles, causing hair to fall out in small patches. As the patches begin to grow and connect, widespread baldness may be evident.
Researchers believe that people with a family history of autoimmune disorders may be at a higher risk for alopecia areata, but the exact cause is not known. The condition is commonly found alongside skin problems like psoriasis or eczema.
Another common cause of hair loss is actually rooted in your day-to-day diet. Nutritional deficiencies, including deficiencies in calories, biotin, protein, zinc and iron, can all cause hair to fall out because the scalp and follicles are being starved of the nutrients they need to grow.
Although hair loss caused by nutritional problems can be reversed quite easily, nutritional deficiencies can be extremely dangerous to your health. A variety of symptoms could come alongside hair loss, including fatigue, dizziness, nausea, low energy, poor concentration, irritability and more. You want to be sure that you’re eating balanced meals every day to get the full suite of nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.
Hair loss is not always an isolated symptom. It can actually be caused by a variety of serious underlying illnesses. Illnesses can “shock” your hair follicles in a similar way to how chronic stress or trauma can, causing hair to fall out prematurely and new hair to stop growing. This condition is often referred to as telogen effluvium.
If you have a diagnosed illness, the medication you’re taking to treat it may also be causing your hair to fall out. This is an unfortunate side effect of many harsh medications.
Your thyroid produces hormones your body needs to grow, stay healthy and reproduce. Hormones play a major role in hair growth, and an imbalance of these hormones can lead to hair loss, as well as other symptoms.
Thyroid conditions can affect other aspects of your health, as well, and should be treated by a doctor as soon as possible.
Treat hair loss like a serious issue
When you first discover your hair loss, you might be frightened, shocked or upset. These feelings are perfectly normal! However, you’ll want to act quickly and make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the problem as soon as you can.
Without an expert’s help, it can be extremely difficult to diagnose the specific form of hair loss you are experiencing. Your doctor can examine your scalp, identify patterns of hair loss and ask you questions to get to the root of your hair loss issue.
Only then will you know if there is a serious underlying problem you will need to address, or if there is another course of treatment you can work through.