Thinning Hair and Hair Loss - Could It Be Female Pattern Hair Loss?
Hair loss is an increasingly common problem for people across the world. People of all genders experience hair loss every day. It's as natural as breathing. Everyone experiences a certain amount of hair loss every day. However, at some point, heavy hair loss becomes a growing concern.
Losing 50-100 strands a day is not something to worry about. But, if you run your fingers through your hair and see an alarming amount falling out, it may be time to assess your hair care routine.
That said, your hair care routine is not the only cause of hair loss. Factors like poor diet, genetics, diabetes, and thyroid, can also lead to hair loss. Sometimes, hair can lose density and become thinner than normal. This can make bald patches appear.
Both thinning and hair loss is experienced by AMAB (assigned male at birth) and AFAB (assigned female at birth) folks.
In males, this condition is called androgenic alopecia and more commonly, male pattern baldness. This is because there is a certain pattern to hair loss, i.e., particular patches on the head that are incapable of growing hair.
Male pattern baldness generally begins with a receding hairline that creates an "M" shape, and several people develop a single bald spot on the top of the head.
When women experience more than normal hair loss, it's called androgenetic alopecia, also known as female pattern hair loss. Unlike male pattern baldness, alopecia in women appears as thinning hair instead of defined bald patches. However, remember that it's not unlikely for women to experience the same alopecia symptoms as men.
In women, the pattern of hair loss follows a normal hairline but causes extremely thin hair overall, which makes the scalp visible. More often than not, this hair loss is extremely pronounced through the middle part of the hair. The most common causes of female pattern hair loss are aging, genetics, and hormones.
Signs of Female Pattern Hair Loss
There are several tell-tale signs of women's hair loss. If you pay close attention to how your hair behaves and its general appearance, you may be able to figure out whether you're experiencing signs of female pattern hair loss or not.
Let's have a look at some obvious signs of hair loss you must be aware of.
If you're at risk for female pattern hair loss, you will notice that your hair is gradually becoming thinner. For some people, this transition progresses in a fashion that's not apparent at first, and suddenly, you may start seeing more scalp than you generally see.
This usually happens at the top of the head. If you part your hair down the middle, the part will likely get bigger, exposing more skin than previously visible. In men's case, the hairline starts receding. For women, however, the hairline is maintained, but overall thinning of the hair can be noticed.
Bald spots are more prominent than thinning hair. Women's hair loss presents itself in either circular or patchy bald spots. The said bald spots may completely be devoid of hair, and they might have a few strands of thin hair growing out of them.
Often, the bald spots are the size of a coin. There is a probable chance of the spot feeling itchy or painful just before the hair falls out.
Sudden Hair Fall
Both emotional and physical trauma causes some hormonal imbalance. This may lead to more hair loss than you have experienced before. Remember to detangle while there's a sizable amount of conditioner or moisturizing agent in your hair.
The absence of moisture can make it difficult for the tangles to resolve smoothly. This will cause your hair to fall out while combing it, especially if you're already prone to hair loss due to stress or hormonal imbalance.
In other cases, hair breaks and gets entangled in the tresses, which is susceptible to coming out while your run your fingers through your hair or comb it. It's possible to feel like this is a sudden hair loss because heavily tangled hair often appears to have more volume.
And therefore, you must pay attention to how much hair you shed generally. This will help you distinguish between normal hair loss and abnormal hair loss that may be cause for concern.
Complete Hair Loss
Certain medical conditions and treatments like chemotherapy can cause your hair and your body hair to fall out all at once.
Different Types of Alopecia
Alopecia is a greek term that roughly summarizes 'hair loss'. Different types of alopecia can be seen in women due to many reasons. It's important to remember that alopecia or any kind of alopecia is not contagious and has nothing to do with nerve function of any kind; it's just a condition with the defining characteristic of hair loss.
There are four different types of alopecia.
Androgenetic Alopecia is the most widespread cause of hair loss in women. It generally begins in women between the ages of 12 to 40 years old. Androgenetic alopecia is commonly referred to as female pattern baldness.
It occurs due to factors like genetics or a family history of hair loss. While male pattern baldness is defined by a receding hairline and apparent bald spots, women's hair loss is characterized by the overall thinning of the hair.
Alopecia areata is defined by patchy hair loss that can take place both on the head and the body. This type of alopecia occurs in the form of one or more bald spots that sometimes coincide with one another.
Cicatricial alopecia takes place when hair falls out from the root, and the hair follicle turns into scar tissue. More specifically, it covers a cluster of conditions that lead to irreversible hair loss due to scarring. This type of hair loss is usually gradual and may go unnoticed due to the absence of symptoms.
However, in many cases, it causes intense pain, itching, and burning and advances more promptly. One of the reasons this hair loss is unforeseeable is that it often occurs in healthy men and women of all ages. It happens worldwide and has no geographic significance.
Traumatic alopecia, as the name suggests, occurs due to any type of trauma caused to the hair. This refers to hair care routines, including damaging styling techniques that lead to breakage of the hair shaft itself.
Some of these methods consist of using hot combs for straightening or curling hair, heating appliances like blow dryers, tight hairstyles, and chemicals used for permanent and semi-permanent hair coloring.
Unlike other types of alopecia, traumatic alopecia can respond to practices like curbing the use of heat styling products, using hair products like shampoos and conditioners that suit the hair, and limiting the use of chemicals to alter the natural texture of hair.
Common Causes of Hair Loss in Women
Hair loss in women is often a result of medical conditions that may or may not be genetic. These conditions directly lead to hair loss because of health changes like hormone disruption due to thyroid disorders, immune deficiency caused by autoimmune disorders where the body is a danger to itself, and skin diseases.
Some medical conditions that cause hair loss in women are:
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Hashimoto disease
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- Addison’s Disease
- Celiac Disease
- Lichen Planus
- Trichorrhexis Invaginata
Many diseases represent themselves in symptoms that can help with the diagnosis of alopecia. For example, weight gain, fatigue, muscle weakness, swelling of the joints, discolored patches on the scalp, mouth ulcers, headaches, anemia, lymph nodes, fever, and night sweats.
Any of these symptoms, in combination with hair loss that is consistent with alopecia, can help your doctor with diagnosis. Remember to give your doctor a complete family history of any conditions that may have caused hair loss in the past.
Other tools of diagnosis, like physical examinations, scalp biopsies, and blood tests, can help the doctor narrow in on what's causing your hair loss.
Menopause and hormonal imbalances often cause hair loss due to the sudden dip in the production of estrogen and progesterone. Hair thinning is often accompanied by symptoms like irregular menstrual cycles, dry skin, weight gain, and vaginal dryness.
As mentioned, both physical stress and mental stress are some of the most typical causes of hair loss. For example, circumstances like grief over the death of a family member, recent surgery, depression, anxiety, and medical illness that lead to the overall deterioration of quality of life are plausible causes of thinning and significant hair loss.
Remember that if stress is the sole reason for your hair loss, it's likely that the hair follicles will rejuvenate and start producing again.
Followed by androgenetic alopecia, telogen effluvium (TE) is the second most common cause of hair loss. It's defined as the temporary loss of the number of active hair follicles. This condition is often triggered by major stressful life events such as pregnancy.
Furthermore, TE occurs due to triggers like crash diets, a considerable lack of proteins, acute illnesses, fatal infections, and high fever. Consumption of medications like NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Inflammatory drugs, beta-blockers, and antidepressants can lead to TE.
Another general reason for thinning hair and hair loss is a lack of Vitamin B. While vitamin B is essential for the body, it's not the sole culprit for hair loss. A deficiency of other vital minerals and vitamins can lead to heavy hair fall. For example, lacking zinc, amino acid L-lysine, B-12, and B-6 can cause alopecia.
Women's Hair Loss is Different Than Men's - How?
Till now, we have covered the different patterns of hair loss that are consistent in men and women. The biggest difference between women's hair loss and men's hair loss is the kind of treatments used to reverse the condition.
Hair loss in men is often treated by the drug Finasteride, also known by the brand name Proscar. Women, however, do not respond to it. This is because it causes more damage than good. For example, women who are of reproductive age are not advised to take finasteride because it can stunt fetal growth, causing complications during pregnancy.
A common treatment for male pattern baldness is hair transplant surgery. It has more chances of being successful in helping men. This is not the same for women because female pattern hair loss is presented very differently than male pattern baldness.
As discussed, hair loss in women covers a larger area of the scalp, i.e., thinning hair and loss of hair density instead of full-bodied bald spots. Furthermore, surgery is not considered for women's hair loss because there are bigger risk factors like shock and infections.
Women's hair loss is preferred to be treated by rather conservative treatments. They are as follows:
- Minoxidil is an over-the-counter liquid drug that needs to be administered for long periods, even years, to work effectively.
- Hormone therapy is a resolve wherein women may have to take oral treatments designed for restoring hormonal balance. This is less common than other treatments because it's not targeted at hair growth.
- Tretinoin, or retinoic acid, is used to treat hair loss in women. However, this treatment must be taken under the guidance of a medical professional. In many cases, retinol-based creams and serums can worsen hair loss.
- Corticosteroids are injected into the specific area of the scalp that is not producing hair. Women usually consider this treatment due to its prompt results, which are reportedly seen in four to six weeks.
- The safest and most effective treatment for hair loss in women is It's applied directly to the scalp and is known to produce new hair growth in two to three months.
Female pattern hair loss, or thinning hair, can be a result of self-resolving problems like stress as well as serious medical conditions that may have gone undiagnosed. This is why it's essential to consult the doctor as soon as you notice abnormal hair loss.
All in all, hair loss is a growing concern for women worldwide, and being proactive can help in case an underlying condition is causing it. Furthermore, it leads to low self-esteem, which can lead to the development of a host of mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, etc.