Causes of Female Hair Loss

Although male hair loss tends to get more attention than female hair loss, women also suffer from alopecia (the medical term for hair loss). As in men, hair loss in women is known as androgenetic alopecia.

Female pattern baldness is usually limited to thinning at the front, sides, or crown. Unlike men, women most often maintain their hairline across the front of their head and rarely experience complete baldness.

The causes of hair loss in women are many, and some are shared with men.

Medical reasons are among the first causes doctors consider when a patient is dealing with female pattern hair loss. Polycystic ovary syndrome (a hormonal problem in women) is one culprit. Another is autoimmune disorders that cause an inflammatory condition known as alopecia areata that causes hair to fall out in clumps or patches. Other medical problems that can disrupt hair growth are thyroid conditions, anemia, obstetric and gynecologic conditions such as postpartum and postmenopausal states, and connective tissue diseases like lupus.

As in men, a temporary condition called telogen effluvium (TE) can cause a change in the natural hair growth system. TE is often caused by a sudden traumatic physical or emotional shock to the body. Childbirth, crash dieting, the death of a loved one, and surgery are the most common culprits.

Hair loss research has shown that hereditary baldness can occur in women, just as it does in men. This genetic condition can come from either side of a womans family and is caused by the actions of 2 enzymes: aromatase, which is found predominantly in women; and 5-alpha reductase, which is found in both women and men.

Poor nutrition takes a toll on hair. This includes eating disorders, crash diets, deficiencies in protein, essential fatty acids, zinc, or calories, malabsorbtion issues and hypervitaminosis (large doses of vitamins).

Certain medications are linked to hair loss in women. They include blood thinners (anti-coagulants), seizure medication, medication for gout, blood pressure medication and diuretics, anti-inflammatory drugs, cholesterol-lowering medications, mood altering drugs, chemotherapy for cancer, thyroid medications, oral contraceptives, diet pills, high doses of vitamin A, and street drugs like cocaine.

Traction alopecia is associated with certain hairstyles that put pressure on the hair, including pigtails, braids and cornrows, and tight hair rollers. The hair loss occurs between the rows or at the part when the hair is pulled tightly. Regrowth is possible if theres no permanent damage to the hair root.

Permanent hair loss known as cicatricial alopecia can be the result of inflammation that damages and scars the hair follicle, preventing new hair from growing. This condition is related to lupus and several skin conditions, including a rash called lichen planus.

Ringworm and other scalp infections can lead to temporary baldness. Once the infection is treated, hair will usually grow back.

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