Hair Loss in Women
Hair loss, also known as alopecia, is the unexpected heavy loss of hair. It is different from hair shedding, which is a part of maintaining natural balance. Hair loss happens when the balance is interrupted or when hairs are lost more quickly than hair grows.
In women, hair loss can be due to multiple reasons such as hormonal changes seen in thyroid disease, pregnancy, menopause, or use of birth control pills. It can also be hereditary. Some medications for cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, and depression can cause hair loss. Poor diet, excessive weight loss, stress, or high fever can also play a role.
What are the Risk Factors for Hair Loss in Women?
- Older than 40
- After giving birth
- Undergoing chemotherapy or on other medications
- With hairstyles that pull on the hair tightly such as tight ponytails
- Using harsh chemicals on their hair
What are the Symptoms of Hair Loss in Women?
Depending on the cause, hair loss varies among women. It can be a sudden loss or a gradual thinning. Keeping a diary can help in tracking any changes experienced and may reveal patterns.
Signs and symptoms of hair loss in women include the following:
- Gradual thinning on the top of the head which may broaden
- Bald spots which may be circular or patchy
- Sudden loss of hair, particularly after an emotional or physical trauma causing hair to come out quickly while washing or combing, leading to overall thinning
- The decreasing volume of your hair in a ponytail
How is Hair Loss in Women Diagnosed?
Your doctor diagnoses hair loss by observing your symptoms and by performing a physical examination. Medical history is gathered, which includes medications taken, diet, any hair care products used, and exploring any family history of hair loss.
To confirm the diagnosis your doctor may conduct the following:
- Gently pulling on your hair to find out how many hairs come out
- Blood tests to check for vitamin and mineral levels such as iron and zinc
- Blood tests to assess hormone levels
- Examination of the scalp under a microscope
- A scalp biopsy to examine a very small piece of tissue
What are the Treatment Options of Hair Loss in Women?
Treatment depends on the cause of hair loss. Some of the options include:
- For stress-related hair loss or loss due to hormonal changes, usually, no treatment is recommended as hair loss stops after a period of time.
- For hairstyle-related hair loss where the loss may be due to certain chemicals or styles, treatment is focused on avoiding the things that cause the damage.
- For nutritional deficiencies, supplements are prescribed.
- Hair transplant surgery is another option for treating hair loss. Hair transplantation is a surgical technique employed to restore hair to areas with hair loss. This is achieved by transplanting hairs from hair-rich areas to areas of no hair or thin hair. The common hair transplantation techniques include FUT, or a follicular unit transplant, and FUE, follicular unit extraction.
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is another option to treat hair loss. Growth factors in the plasma stimulate the hair follicles to help promote hair growth. PRP therapy may not be recommended if you are on blood-thinners or if you have a medical condition such as thyroid disease, lupus, hepatitis, or skin cancer.
How is Hair Loss in Women Prevented?
Prevention is not possible if your hair loss is due to disease, aging, heredity, or physical stressors like injuries. Strategies that can help with preventable types of hair loss include eating a balanced diet and avoiding tight hairstyles such as buns, braids, or ponytails. Smoking may also be a factor and should be avoided.