Common causes of hair loss and treatment options

Millions of men and women experience hair loss in some shape or form in their lives. The Hair Society, a hair-loss information group, says that approximately 35 million men and 21 million women suffer from hair loss, and people are more likely to experience hair loss as they age.

Many different things can contribute to hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness) can begin to affect men in their mid- to late-20s, with displays of baldness growing in their 30s and 40s, says Bosley, a hair-loss treatment company. This is a hereditary condition that will only continue through life without intervention. Other non-hereditary hair loss issues may be temporary and reverse when the underlying cause is addressed. These include:

• Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, or thyroid illness can cause patchy hair loss or thinning of the hair.

• Medications and supplements: The Mayo Clinic says that hair loss can be a side effect of certain drugs, such as those to treat cancer, depression, heart problems, gout, and high blood pressure. The American Academy of Dermatology says too much vitamin A in supplements can trigger hair loss as well.

• Stress: Hair can thin following a physical or emotional shock and may continue several months after the event.

• Damage to the hair: Treatments or hairstyles that stress the hair follicles and pull them tightly can cause a type of hair loss known as traction alopecia. These include cornrows, pigtails, tight ponytails, and braids.

• Crash diets: Dramatic dietary changes may cause hair loss. For example, the AAD says people may suffer from hair loss if they suddenly are not getting enough protein in their diets.

• Anemia: A doctor may be able to do a blood test to determine if hair loss is possibly related to anemia from an iron deficiency.

Oftentimes, addressing the underlying condition causing hair loss can bring about regrowth. For those with hereditary hair loss, medications (topical, injections and pills); laser hair therapy; surgical or nonsurgical procedures; scalp treatments; like scalp reduction or scalp flaps; and other options may go a long way toward restoring hair volume.

Various hair-loss specialists offer free evaluations to people who want to learn about hair loss. Concerned men and women also can speak to a dermatologist if hair loss is a concern.

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