Hair Loss In Women
All About Hair Loss In Women
Although hair loss in men is widely acknowledged and accepted as a simple fact of life hair loss in women is less well understood. In fact, amongst women over the age of 40 a similar percentage to that of men may actually experience some hair loss.
Where men and women differ is in the form that their hair loss takes. Whilst men typically experience male pattern baldness, or a loss of hair in some areas but not others, women usually experience general hair thinning all over their heads.
Within the US up to 30 million women a year experience hair loss according to the American Academy of Dermatology, so it is a significant problem for women as well as men.
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Womens' Hair Loss- Hair Growth Cycles
Human hair goes through growth cycles which alternate through a growing phase known as anagen and a resting phase called telegen. Each hair has its own cycle so that hair is constantly falling and regrowing. During anagen or growth phase hairs typically grow about half an inch a month. Anagen lasts on average for about 3 years. The hair then goes into telegen where it rests in the head for approximately three months before a new hair entering growth phase pushes it out of the head.
A problem occurs when a trigger causes too many hairs to go into telegen or rest phase at once.
Types Of Hair Loss In Women
Hair loss in women can be of several types. The first of these is a temporary condition called telogen effluvium. This is where the natural growth cycle of hair is interrupted by a specific event such as childbirth, pregnancy, illness, stress or a new medication. In this instance hair loss is usually experienced for a short period, but hair then returns to its normal cycle growing back as before.
Androgenetic alopecia is a type of hair loss that is caused by a reaction of the body to male hormones. Whilst men have a high level of male hormone women also have a small level of testosterone within their bodies. It is not necessary for women to have elevated levels of testosterone for it to cause hair loss, in susceptible individuals even small amounts can cause hair loss.
Another cause of hair loss in women is polycystic ovary syndrome. For some women hair loss is the only symptom that they have of this problem so it is always worth seeing a doctor if you are experiencing hair loss.
Another type of hair loss called alopecia areata has its origin in the autoimmune system. This differs from other types of hair loss in women as it causes hair to come out in clumps, or in specific areas.
Hair loss can also be caused by aneamia, thyroid conditions, chronic illness, chemotherapy treatment and other medications.
There are also a significant number of women that experience hair loss as a consequence of wearing hair styles that are too tight and damage the structure of the hair. The important thing is to stop tight hairstyles as soon as hair loss is noticed as this usually results in normal regrowth.
The following are NOT reasons for permanent female hair loss:
- Too much brushing
- Washing hair too frequently
- Use of hair dyes or perms (although they can cause temporary breakage)
- Wearing of hats and wigs.
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Treating Hair Loss In Women
The treatment for hair loss in women will depend to a large extent on the cause of the hair loss in the first place. Many causes such as pregnancy and childbirth need no treatment as hair will return to normal growth fairly quickly.
The key to treating hair loss is to determine where possible what the cause of the hair loss is, and to act as quickly as possible in starting treatment.
At present only one treatment is authorised in the US for treatment of hair loss in women. However doctors regularly use other treatments that they believe to be effective. Many doctors prefer topical treatments as they are less likely to interfere with the delicate balance of hormones within the human body.
The first of these treatments is minoxidil topical solution at 2%. This is most commonly known as Rogaine in the US and is available in pharmacies and on Amazon.com. In studies approximately 60% of women noted an improvement in hair regrowth. When used as a topical solution it has been noted that not enough enters the blood stream to cause side effects in most patients.
At present only 2% minoxidil has been approved for use by women although many doctors report using 5% with some success. The use of 5% solution in women must be done under close medical supervision however.
The following drugs may also be available through your doctor to help with hair loss. Whilst not specifically designed for hair loss treatment they have been shown with varying degrees of success to improve hair regrowth for some types of hair loss:
- cyproterone acetate
- oral contraceptives
One of the most important things to do if you experience female hair loss is to seek the advice of your GP.
In many cases they will be able to reassure you that this is a temporary reversible problem. They will also be able to exclude causes such as polycystic ovaries or thyroid problems and be able to advise you on possible treatment options if your hair loss is not likely to resolve itself spontaneously.
Although minoxidil is available without prescription for treating female hair loss gps also have access to other prescription drugs if this is not successful.
In addition many GPs also have access and information about cosmetic options such as wig services if they are required.
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