Over the course of the last forty years, the board-certified dermatologists and specialists at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research have found one thing to be painfully true: there is no single, one-size-fits-all cure for hair loss. There are, in fact, a variety of complex reasons why men and women may start to lose their hair and each one of those reasons requires a distinctive, individually tailored treatment plan. In addition to the different forms of alopecia and effluvium that can directly result in baldness, there are also several different medical conditions that may cause hair loss simply as a side effect, particularly in women. Understanding some of these conditions, and how they can impact the hair and scalp can often provide great insight into exactly how hair loss works and help patients to find the hair restoration solution that is most appropriate to their personal situation.
Iron Deficiency and Anemia
Although the data is still in dispute, many researchers believe that there is a strong link between iron deficiency and hair loss in both men and women, particularly in patients with anemia. The rapidly dividing cells that produce new hair in the hair follicle require a great deal of iron to function optimally, and studies have found that women with hair loss have significantly lower iron stores than women whose hair is growing normally.
About one woman in eight can expect to develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime, and a poorly functioning thyroid gland can affect a whole range of physical and mental processes, including hair growth. An overactive thyroid gland can cause the hair on the head to become fine and appear to be thinning all over the scalp while an under-active one can make the hair dry and brittle in texture, resulting in hair loss not just on the scalp, but anywhere on the body.
When chemotherapy drugs travel through the body to kill cancer cells they also affect other, rapidly-dividing cells like hair follicles, severely damaging them and causing pronounced hair loss. Studies have found that this side effect can often be alleviated by simply lowering the temperature of the scalp with a “cold cap” device, which can slow blood flow to the area and help prevent the chemotherapy drugs from reaching the scalp follicles.
Many women experience significant hair shedding after they give birth, however this is not actually hair loss, but the body returning to its normal, pre-pregnancy state. During pregnancy, hormonal shifts prevent older hair from shedding the way it naturally would, which can make the hair look fuller and more vibrant than usual. After the woman gives birth, the hair follicles resume their ordinary growth cycle and the excess hair is shed, resulting in a noticeable, but temporary, loss of hair.
Patients with certain autoimmune disorders, such as diabetes, lupus, or thyroid disease, may experience some degree of hair loss as a symptom of their condition. Moreover, those with a family history of such diseases are statistically more likely to suffer from a rare condition called alopecia areata, which causes the immune system to attack the hair follicles, leading to either patchy or total loss of all the hair on the head or even the entire body.
Hair loss is a complicated issue, and effective treatment requires a comprehensive diagnosis by a skilled and experienced hair loss expert, like Dr. Edmond Griffin or Dr. Ashley Curtis. If you are suffering from hair loss and would like to learn what we can do for you, please contact The Griffin Center to schedule a consultation. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get the latest news in hair restoration and research.