Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Hair Loss and Its
What is the normal cycle of hair
growth and loss?
At any one time, about 10 percent of the hair on
your scalp is in a resting phase. After 2 to 3 months, the resting hair falls
out and new hair starts to grow in its place. This growing phase lasts for 2 to
6 years. Each hair grows approximately 1 centimeter per month during this phase.
About 90 percent of the hair on your scalp is growing at any one
It is normal to shed some hair each day as part
of this cycle. However, some people may experience excessive (more than normal)
What causes excessive hair
A number of things can cause excessive hair
loss. For example, about 3 or 4 months after an illness or a major surgery, you
may suddenly lose a large amount of hair. This hair loss is related to the
stress of the illness and is temporary.
Hormonal problems may cause hair loss. If your
thyroid gland is overactive or underactive, your hair may fall out. This hair
loss usually can be helped by treatment of the thyroid disease. Hair loss may
occur if male or female hormones, known as androgens and estrogens, are out of
balance. Correcting the hormone imbalance may stop your hair
Many women notice hair loss about 3 months after
they've had a baby. This loss is also related to hormones. During pregnancy,
high levels of certain hormones cause the body to keep hair that would
normally fall out. When the hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels, that hair
falls out and the normal cycle of growth and loss starts
Some medicines can cause hair loss. This type of
hair loss improves when you stop taking the medicine. Medicines that can cause
hair loss include blood thinners (also called anticoagulants), medicines used
for gout, medicines used in chemotherapy to treat cancer, vitamin A (if too much
is taken), birth control pills and antidepressants.
Certain infections can cause hair loss. Children
may have hair loss caused by a fungal infection of the scalp. The infection is
easily treated with antifungal medicines.
Finally, hair loss may occur as part of an
underlying disease, such as lupus or diabetes. Since hair loss may be an early
sign of a disease, it is important to find the cause so that it can be treated.
Can improper care of my hair cause
Yes. If you wear pigtails or cornrows or use
tight hair rollers, the pull on your hair can cause a type of hair loss called
traction alopecia (say: "al-oh-pee-sha"). If the pulling is stopped before
scarring of the scalp develops, your hair will grow back normally. However,
scarring can cause permanent hair loss. Hot oil hair treatments or chemicals
used in permanents may cause inflammation (swelling) of the hair follicle, which
can result in scarring and hair loss.
What is common
The term "common baldness" usually means
male-pattern baldness. Male-pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair
loss in men. Men who have this type of hair loss usually have inherited the
trait. Men who start losing their hair at an early age tend to develop more
extensive baldness. In male-pattern baldness, hair loss typically results in a
receding hair line and baldness on the top of the head.
Women may develop female-pattern baldness. In
this form of hair loss, the hair becomes thin over the entire scalp.
Can my doctor do something to stop
Perhaps. Your doctor will probably ask you some
questions about your diet, any medicines you're taking, whether you've had a
recent illness and how you take care of your hair. If you're a woman, your
doctor may ask questions about your menstrual cycle, pregnancies and menopause.
Your doctor may want to do a physical exam to look for other causes of hair
loss. Finally, blood tests or a biopsy (taking a small sample of cells to
examine under a microscope) of your scalp may be needed.
Is there any treatment for hair
Depending on your type of hair loss, treatments
are available. If a medicine is causing your hair loss, your doctor may be able
to prescribe a different medicine. Recognizing and treating an infection may
help stop the hair loss. Correcting a hormone imbalance may prevent further hair
Medicines may help slow or prevent the
development of common baldness. One medicine, minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine),
is available without a prescription. It is applied to the scalp. Both men and
women can use it. Another medicine, finasteride (brand name: Propecia) is
available with a prescription. It comes in pills and is only for men. It may
take up to 6 months before you can tell if one of these medicines is
If adequate treatment is not available for your
type of hair loss, you may consider trying different hairstyles or wigs,
hairpieces, hair weaves or artificial hair replacement.