There are many reasons why women lose hair. The most important thing is to understand the reason for the underlying hair loss. Some hair loss is reversible while others are not.
Here are some interesting facts about hair
- We produce around 1km of hair per month
- There are on average 100,000 hairs on our heads
- About 50-100 hairs are shed everyday
- Hair that is shed takes 3-5 years to replace
- At least 25% of hair must be shed before we notice the hair loss
- Abnormal shedding is when the hair clogs up the shower drain or you see clumps of hair on the pillow
Androgenetic Alopecia (Inherited hair loss)
This is the most common cause of hair loss in both men and women. By the age of 60, 50% of women would have noticeable hairloss. This is also caused by male hormones (Women do produce some male hormones). The pattern of hair loss is different from the men. Women do not lose their frontal hairline and the hair loss affects the crown of the head (the top). There are treatments available for this form of hair loss but it is controversial and it is best to discuss this with your doctor.
Alopecia Areata (Patchy hairloss)
In this type of hair loss, women (and men) may find that there is one patch of clean normal scalp surrounded by normal hair. It looks as if the barber accidentally shaved off the hair on that part of the scalp. This condition usually recovers spontaneously after 12 months, but there are some medications and treatments which may help to shorten the recovery process
Diffuse Alopecia (Universal hair loss)
Sometimes severe stress can cause hair loss. Classically this type of hair loss is seen in women after pregnancy. It usually occurs 2-4 months after the stressful event. Aside from giving birth, other events such as severe illness or surgery, accidents, severe dieting and weight loss etc can also cause this form of hair loss. The good news is that spontaneous recovery can be expected in 6 months. Medications such as minoxidil can be used to help accelerate the process.
Certain medications can also cause hair loss. The obvious ones are the drugs used to treat cancer. The less obvious ones are drugs used to treat gout, gastric pain, worms, arthritis etc. You should check with your doctor if you suspect that your hair loss is caused by a certain drug.
There are also a number of medical conditions that can cause hair loss such as hypothyroidism, anaemia, polycystic ovarian syndrome etc. Your doctor would be able to confirm the diagnosis by doing blood tests and other investigatons.
It is important to get to the root (pun intended) of the problem. Understanding the cause of the hair loss is the most important first step in treatment. There are some medications available from your doctor that can treat hair loss. So it is important to seek expert medical opinion before seeking other treatment options for your hair.
Murtagh, John Patient Education 4th Ed 2005 McGraw Hill Australia