Losing hair can be very distressing. Although more common in men because of male pattern baldness, it can also occur in women. There are strategies and treatments available. Here, Dr Suchitra Badvey, who is a specialist doctor in dermatology and cosmetic dermatology, answers some common questions about hair loss.
Why does hair loss happen?
There are two common types of hair loss:
1. Diffuse hair loss : this is a condition where more than 100-120 hairs per day are shed but the hair follicle isn't damaged. The hair loss is evenly distributed across the whole scalp. This can range from a very subtle to severe hair loss.
Common triggers for this type of hair loss can be
- A deficiency in iron (iron deficiency can be dietary or commonly in women as a result of heavy periods or pregnancy)
- Biotin deficiencies
- Thyroid hormone disorders,
- Inflammatory scalp disorders such as eczema and psoriasis capitis, fungal and bacterial infections
- Stress due to physical or psychological trauma such as the loss of a loved one, depression, eating disorders, anxiety.
- Chemotherapy and other medications such oral contraceptive pills, anticoagulants (blood thinning agents) , cholesterol reducing drugs, blood pressure medication such as beta blockers, anti-epileptic drugs, acne medication such as Vitamin A derivatives – for example, Roaccutane
2. Androgenetic alopecia or male pattern hair loss : due to an increase of androgens (male hormones) in the body.
Does male pattern hair loss only affect women?
Although men are more commonly affected by androgenetic alopecia, it can also affect women. The way it manifests its self can be different. In men, thinning or loss of hair is around the temples (receding hair line) and additionally a bald spot patch may appear in the centre of the scalp which increases in size.
In females, this is typically seen is also a receding hair line especially around the temples or an increasingly wider hair parting. Other accompanying symptoms may be pimples or spots on the face, excessive hair growth on the body or on the face typically on areas such as the cheeks, upper lip and chin.
Can male pattern hair loss be stopped in women?
These symptoms and irregular periods may point to an increase of androgens. It’s vital that the reasons for the increase in male hormones are investigated. It can be due to certain oral contraceptives pills, polycystic ovarian syndrome or more natural reasons such the decline in female oestrogens in the perimenopausal and menopausal female.
What about other causes of baldness in women?
It is very important to identify the cause of the hair loss and to eliminate the most common possibilities or reasons such as iron deficiency due to anaemia, thyroid disorders, hormonal imbalances, medications, stress and stressors.
How is the cause of hair loss diagnosed?
A trichogram or trichoanalysis is a hair analysis test performed by a dermatologist to check the condition, quality and number of the hair follicles. This is accompanied by a blood test to check for male and female hormones such as testosterone, oestrogen, prolactin, DHEA and thyroid hormones and minerals such as iron and zinc.
How is hair loss treated?
After a thorough examination and identification of the cause of the hair loss, simple treatments such as removing the medication causing the hair loss and replacing it with another alternative where necessary. Balancing and supplementing the vitamins, hormones and minerals may potentially reverse the hair loss. However, when this is not possible or is ineffective other methods may be tried such as the application of Minoxidil solution to the scalp. There are other medications aimed specifically for men which can reverse hair loss, such as hair transplants.
What is the latest treatment for thinning hair?
Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy has shown promising results1 in reversing hair loss. This method, which evolved initially from orthopaedics and plastic surgery, is aimed at regenerating cells in the hair follicles. In Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy, a sample of the patient's blood is taken and spun in a specific centrifuge to separate the plasma and injected back into the patient's scalp via mesotherapy. This is repeated 4 to 5 times at 4 to 6 week intervals.