Hair Loss: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Hair Loss Overview

Hair loss is extremely common, affecting about 50 million men and 30 million women in the U.S. About 50% of men will have some hair loss by the time they turn 50. Hair loss is not life-threatening, though it can have devastating psychological effects, particularly in women.

What Are Causes of Hair Loss?

Hair loss is often caused by genetics, that is, it runs in families. In general it is not a symptom of disease, however, thyroid disease, anemia, ringworm of the scalp, and anorexia can cause hair loss. In addition, some medications such as cancer chemotherapy may cause temporary hair loss. Hair growth usually returns to normal when the medications are stopped. In some cases, hormones after giving birth or during menopause can cause thinning hair.

  • Alopecia Areata
  • Traction Alopecia
  • Trichotillomania
  • Tinea Capitis (Fungal Infection)
  • Telogen Effluvium

Male-Pattern Baldness

Some men may start to notice thinning hair as early as their 20s, and by age 50, 50% of men see some hair loss. Hair is usually lost in a pattern, starting at the temples, revealing the classic “M” shaped hairline seen as men age.

Myths About Male-Pattern Baldness

There are many myths about male-pattern baldness.

  • MYTH: Baldness is inherited through the mother’s side of the family. If your maternal grandfather was bald, you will be too.
  • FACT: Genes for baldness can come from either parent.
  • MYTH: Wearing hats strains hair follicles and causes hair loss.
  • FACT: Unless your hat is so tight it cuts off circulation to hair follicles, it will not cause hair loss.
  • MYTH: Using a blow dryer causes hair loss.
  • FACT: Use of a blow dryer does not cause hair to fall out. However, frequent over-use of a hot dryer can cause hair to become brittle, damaged, and break, which may cause hair to appear thinner.
  • MYTH: Washing hair too frequently or using certain styling products can cause hair to fall out.
  • FACT: Shampoo and hair care products do not cause hair loss.
  • MYTH: Massaging the scalp will help hair regrow by stimulating circulation around the follicles.
  • FACT: It may make you feel good, but no studies have shown scalp massage helps regrow hair.

Hair Loss Treatment

First, it is important to determine that hair loss is not caused by an underlying medical condition. If that is the case, the medical condition needs to be addressed.

If there is no medical problem causing the hair loss, treatment options include medications, surgery, grooming techniques, wigs, and hairpieces.

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