Font Size
A
A
A
1
...

Hair Loss


Topic Overview

How much hair loss is common?

Everyone loses some hair every day. Losing up to 100 hairs a day is normal.

But if hair loss runs in your family, you could lose a lot more hair. With this kind of hair loss, you may end up with bald spots if you are a man. If you are a woman, you may find that the hair on the top of your head is slowly thinning. About half of all people have this type of hair loss by around age 50.

Although hair loss is fairly common, it can be a tough thing to live with, especially when it changes how you look. But there are ways you can treat your hair loss.

What causes hair loss?

Common causes of hair loss include:

  • Family history. In most cases, hair loss is inherited, which means it's passed down from one or both of your parents. This is called male-pattern or female-pattern hair loss.
  • Stress, including physical stress from surgery, illness, or high fever.
  • Chemotherapy, which is powerful medicine that destroys cancer cells.
  • Damage to your hair from pulling it back too tightly, wearing tight braids or ponytails, or using curling irons or dyes.
  • Age. You grow less hair as you get older. Hair also gets thinner and tends to break more easily as you age.
  • Poor diet, especially not getting enough protein or iron.
  • Thyroid diseases, such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
  • Ringworm of the scalp, which is common in children.

What are the symptoms?

Your symptoms will depend on what kind of hair loss you have.

If your hair is thinning, it happens slowly over time, so you may not notice the hairs falling out. If your hair is shedding, then clumps of hair fall out. You may lose hair all over your scalp, which is called general hair loss. Or you may lose hair only in one area, which is called focal hair loss.

With inherited hair lossClick here to see an illustration., men usually get bald spots around the forehead or on the top of the head, while women have some thinning all over the scalp, but mostly on the top of the head.

Since your hair has a lot to do with your appearance, losing it may cause you to have lower self-esteem if you don't like how you look. This is especially true in women and teens.

How is hair loss diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you some questions, like how much hair you're losing, when it started, and whether your parents have hair loss. He or she will look closely at your scalp and hair loss pattern and may gently pull out a few hairs for tests.

If it's not clear what's causing you to lose your hair, your doctor may do a blood test or look at a sample of your hair or scalp with a microscope.

How is it treated?

How you choose to treat your hair loss depends on the cause. It also depends on your feelings. You may decide that you need treatment, or you may not be worried about thinning hair or baldness. The choice is up to you.

If hair loss is caused by something that won't last or can be treated, your hair is likely to grow back. For example, if an underactive thyroid is causing the problem, taking thyroid medicine may help. And most hair lost during chemotherapy will grow back after the treatment ends.

Hair loss that runs in the family can be treated with medicines or hair transplant surgery. Some people choose to wear hairpieces, like wigs or toupees (say "too-PAYZ"). Finding different ways of styling your hair, like dyeing or combing, also can help.

If hair loss is caused by something you can control, like stress or medicines, you can treat it by getting rid of the cause.

When you are deciding about treatment, think about these questions:

  • Which treatment is most likely to work?
  • How long will it take?
  • Will it last?
  • What are the side effects and other risks?
  • How much will it cost, and will insurance cover it?

Will your hair grow back?

When your hair loss is inherited, your hair won't grow back naturally. Treatment can help some hair grow back and prevent more from falling out, but you probably won't get all your hair back. And treatment doesn't work for everyone.

When medicines, stress, or hair damage cause you to lose your hair, it often will grow back after you take away the cause. If this doesn't help, you may need other treatment.

If you're unhappy with how hair loss makes you look, treatment may help you feel better. It's natural to want to like the way you look.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about hair loss:

  • How much hair loss is common?
  • What causes it?
  • Can I prevent hair loss?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • What happens in hair loss?
  • What increases my risk of losing my hair?
  • What is alopecia areata?

Being diagnosed:

  • Who can diagnose hair loss?
  • How is it diagnosed?

Getting treatment:

  • How is hair loss treated?
  • What medicines do I need to take?
  • Will I need surgery?
  • What other treatments might be recommended?
  • Click here to view a Decision Point.Should I take medicines for inherited hair loss?
  • What do I need to know about hair transplant surgery?

Living with hair loss:

  • What can I do at home for hair loss?
  • How often will I need to see my doctor?
  • When should I call my doctor?
Next Page:
1
...

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit Healthwise.org

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.





Medical Dictionary