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Hair today, gone tomorrow! – the problem of thinning hair


July 2011 

hair thinningIt is general knowledge that hair can thin and even disappear with age. But this thinning isn’t caused by one specific problem connected with ageing; there are a number of different conditions have been identified that can be responsible.

You may never have heard of telogen effluvium, but this condition can affect men as well as women and is one of the commonest forms of “hair thinning” or loss of hair, both on the scalp and also elsewhere on the body.

Telogen effluvium can occur at any age and often develops after periods of intense stress on the body’s physical or hormonal system. This can be as a result of illness or as a reaction to medication.

The condition usually takes some time to develop after the cause, and hair will thin generally in density rather than in one area causing a bald patch.

Interestingly, while the condition can start very quickly, it often corrects itself with around six months, although for some it can become a lasting problem.

There is another common cause of hair thinning and hair loss called androgenetic alopecia. Here, the problem is called by a chemical called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, which is made from androgens (male hormones that are produced by all men and women) by the action of an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. If you have a lot of this enzyme, you may make more DHT and an excess level of this can cause hair follicles to make thinner hair.

This condition is often genetic and inherited from one’s parents. While androgenetic alopecia is one of the main causes of receding hairline and balding in men, for women it generally causes an overall thinning.

For women, there is another condition called alopecia areata which is an autoimmune disease when the hair follicles are attacked by white blood cells. The follicles reduce in size and hair production can slow right down.

Problems with the thyroid gland can also result in some levels of hair loss, and certain medications can also in some cases cause hair to thin. These can include blood thinners (anticoagulants) and medication used for gout, heart problems and high blood pressure. Excess levels of vitamin A and antidepressants are also known to have the potential to cause hair loss.

If that is not enough, hair thinning can occur as part of an underlying diseases such as diabetes or lupus.

While many may have inherited their tendency to hair loss from their parents, nevertheless it makes sense to talk to your doctor about it and establish the cause. The problem could be caused by one of the other identified conditions and there could be medication and treatments that will help.


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