Hair is an important part of our identity. Because of its significance, hair loss can be very traumatic for both men and women. Millions of women in the United States suffer from androgenic alopecia (or female pattern hair loss). But all is not hopeless for women who wish to confront their hair loss and take action to safely regain control of their appearance and self-esteem.
Hair grows in phases from its follicle (the skin surrounding the hair root) at an average rate of about ½ inch per month. Approximately 90% of the hair on your scalp is growing at any one time and is in a phase that lasts 2-6 years. The other 10% is in a resting phase, which lasts 2-3 months. After the resting phase, the hair strand falls out and a new one begins to grow. As a result, you lose roughly 100 hairs on any given day.
Androgenic alopecia (the most common cause of excessive hair loss in both women and men) occurs when hair falls out, but new hair does not grow in its place. The cause is not well understood, but it is associated with genetic predisposition (from either the maternal or paternal side), aging, and levels of androgens (sex hormones).
The pattern of hair loss in women is different from the typical receding hairline and crown loss seen in men. In women, there is usually thinning of hair over the entire head or slight hair loss at the crown or hairline. It rarely progresses to total or near baldness.
Hair loss can occur for other reasons as well, including:
There is no known way to prevent female pattern hair loss. But call your doctor if you think you may be balding. She may find a treatable medical cause for your hair loss and can work with you to treat the condition, as well as symptoms like itching or skin irritation. There’s no reason for you to feel anxious, embarrassed, or unattractive because of hair loss.
The hair loss of female pattern hair loss is permanent. However, it is of cosmetic importance only and does not indicate a medical disorder. So, if you are comfortable with your appearance, no treatment is required. If you want to treat the condition, keep in mind that your insurance will most likely not cover medicines or procedures for cosmetic purposes, but may if your hair loss is due to a disease.
Examples of treatment options include:
Alopecia Areata Foundation
American Hair Loss Council
Causes of hair loss. American American Hair Loss Council website. Available at: http://www.americanhairloss.org/women_hair_loss/causes_of_hair_loss.asp . Accessed May 1, 2012.
Female pattern hair loss. American Hair Loss Council website. Available at: http://www.ahlc.org/femalepattern.htm . Accessed September 16, 2003.
Hair. Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-817.html . Accessed September 16, 2003.
Hair loss: who gets and causes. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/hair-loss/who-gets-causes/hair-loss-who-gets-and-causes . Accessed May 1, 2012.
Minoxidil (topical). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated February 17, 2010. Accessed March 26, 2010.
Price VH. Treatment of hair loss. N Engl J Med . 1999; 341:964.
Trost LB, Bergfeld WF, Calogeras E. The diagnosis and treatment of iron deficiency and its potential relationship to hair loss. J Am Acad Dermatol . 2006; 54:824.
What causes excessive hair loss? Family Doctor.org website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/causes-risk-factors.html . Accessed May 1, 2012.
Last reviewed May 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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