Hair Loss in Women
Hair Loss in Women
Why do Women lose their hair?
Women can lose hair for many reasons. In the case of pregnancy, changes in hormone levels can produce hair loss. Stress and anxiety can also cause hair follicles to cease production. In some cases, a vitamin deficiency can cause hair loss. Certain medications can lead to hair falling out, too. But in all the aforementioned cases, the hair loss is only temporary for most people. Once the condition causing the hair loss stops, whether naturally or through intervention; the hair follicles will "rejuvinate" and begin producing hair once again.
There are two conditions in which hair loss is irreversible. The first is from the condition known as Alopecia Universalis. Very few people are afflicted with Alopecia Universalis, but those who are facing the devastating effects of this condition are faced with a situation in which all hair production ceases on their body and they actually produce no hair at all, from their head to their toes. The condition is believed to be caused by a virus and there is no known "cure" for it.
The overwhelming majority of women suffer from what is known as androgenic hair loss. This is caused by hormonal changes. It was mentioned previously that pregnant women can experience hair loss due to changes in hormone levels. With androgenic hair loss, the principle is the same but the cause is different.
Both men and women have hormones related to the opposite sex. Men have levels of estrogen in their body, just as women have levels of testosterone. In women, the cause of what is known as female pattern baldness is the testosterone hormone. Women with hair loss do not have abnormal levels of testosterone in their body. These women are just unable to "process” testosterone properly.
There is much testosterone found in a person's scalp. If the hormone does not break down properly as it ages and is ready to be disposed of as waste, a by-product formed with the enzyme alpha-5 reductase known as Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) exists
When too much DHT accumulates in the scalp, hair follicles are affected. They begin to atrophy. The hair being produced miniaturizes, becomes weaker in structure, and lighter in color. Finally, the hair follicle enters a permanent dormant state and no hair is produced at all. In most cases, there is no way to induce the hair follicle to produce normal, healthy hair again. The follicle is essentially dead.
What is Androgenetic Alopecia?
Female Pattern Hair Loss (Androgenetic Alopecia) is an emotionally devastating condition. Unfortunately, 50% of women will experience some degree of hair loss by the age of 60.
The most common form of hair loss in women (Androgenetic Alopecia also known as Female Pattern Hair Loss) occurs in women that are genetically predisposed.
Like any medical condition, early detection is the best practice for prevention.
Unlike Male Pattern Hair Loss, "pattern distribution" is not typical for most women with Androgenetic Alopecia. In most cases, for women thinning occurs diffusely without a pattern. Often the frontal hair line is left intact, but behind this the scalp becomes visible in the midline. Progressive thinning over time may extend back to the crown area, and often impacts areas on the sides and back of the head, leaving the scalp covered with diffusely thinning hair, but usually no bare areas. Figure illustrates hair loss in women due to Female Pattern Hair Loss (as measured by the Ludwig Scale).
Because of this lack of a defined pattern one cannot distinguish Female Pattern Hair Loss from other causes of hair loss just by looking at it.
It is important to exclude other causes of hair thinning which can mimic Androgenetic Alopecia in women.
Most women will come to their diagnosis after excluding medically treatable causes such as anemia, thyroid disease, fatty acid deficiency, medication side effects, heavy metal exposure (lead, arsenic, mercury) just to name a few. There are also dermatologic conditions that can look like Androgenetic Alopecia, but require different treatment approaches, so an accurate diagnosis is important.
Proper early prediction and diagnosis of female hair loss is paramount to saving your hair.