Did you know that on average we lose between 50 to 100 hairs a day? Hair loss on its own is completely normal and often quite insignificant and hardly noticeable. However, for some this isn’t the case. Due to a range of possible factors, some people lose hair at a much faster, and permanent rate.
The loss of hair itself isn’t a medical concern, but it can be a result of a medical issue that you may or may not be aware of. Even if this isn’t the case, many tend to experience significant insecurity from hair loss.
What causes hair loss?
Everybody loses some hair due to its natural renewal cycle. But if the hair loss is more aggressive, or is noticeable and you are starting to see bald patches, this could be caused by several different reasons. Some of which are permanent.
The most common causes are:
- Cancer treatment
- Extreme weight loss
- Iron deficiency
One of the most well-known causes of hair loss is alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that attacks your hair follicles.
There are some instances where you may think you are having bald patches, but they are actually areas of thinner hair. Thinning hair can result in baldness, but they aren’t the same. Causes for thinning hair can be similar to that of hair loss, but also more commonly include harsh hair products/treatments.
Preventing hair loss or thinning hair comes with trying to avoid some of the causes. For example, managing your stress levels, eating well, staying as healthy as you can. Of course not all causes of hair loss are preventable but they can be managed, and in many cases if you catch it early, the loss can be significantly reduced. You can read more about that in a moment!
Finding the cause
If you are concerned about the rate of hair loss you are experiencing, you can speak to your doctor and they can investigate the cause. They may be able to get a good idea by looking at your hair; some types of hair loss, such as hereditary hair loss – male and female pattern baldness – tends to follow a set journey.
Aside from a physical exam, your doctor will also speak to you about your family history, medical history, diet, to find out if you may be suffering from a vitamin deficiency, an underactive thyroid, or another condition that may be the cause, and routine. If the results are inconclusive, or they want to investigate further, they may order further tests such as:
- Blood tests, in case there is a medical condition causing the hair loss
- Pull test, where they gently tug on your hair to see how much hair comes out
- Biopsy, taking samples of skin from your scalp or hair in case an infection is causing the hair loss
- Microscopy, in case there is a disorder of the hair shaft causing the hair loss
Treatment for Hair Loss
If your GP diagnoses your hair loss, they may suggest a treatment plan, depending on the results. In some cases the hair loss is reversible or can be slowed down with effective treatment. Unfortunately there is no treatment that is 100% effective, and most will need to be paid for.
In cases where an infection or illness causes hair loss, the condition itself will be treated (if it can be).
For pattern/hereditary hair loss medication available to reverse or slow down the hair loss include:
- Minoxidil (Rogaine): Liquid, foam or hair loss shampoo that helps regrow hair
- Finasteride (Propecia): Prescription pill for men
Hair transplant surgery is an option for permanent hair loss only based on the top of the head. A dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon takes hair from one part of the head and transplants it to a bald spot.
Laser therapy is a new treatment, but is considered to improve hair density in case of hereditary hair loss.
Wigs are available through the NHS, but you will need to pay for them unless you qualify for financial help.
Many vitamins marketed for hair loss tend to contain vitamins that support hair growth, rather than reversing the process.
Hair Loss Support
Hair loss can be difficult for many people. If you are struggling with it, you don’t need to suffer in silence; there is support available both in person or remotely.
You can speak to your GP for counselling, join a support group, or get to know other people in the same position you’re in.
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