Hair Loss Symptoms
Alopecia, or hair loss, can affect your scalp or other parts of the body. Many reasons can cause hair loss. Depending on the cause, signs, and symptoms of hair thinning or hair loss also differ, as well as their appearance.
Although it is completely normal to lose some hair on a daily basis, if you lose more hair than usual, you will probably notice it.
In most cases, a person first notices a large amount of hair on the hairbrush or in the tub drain after washing their hair. They also see their hair is either becoming thinner or missing. The hairline may change, or bald patches may appear. If your doctor takes a thorough history of signs and symptoms, they may point out the cause and treat the hair loss accordingly.
What is Hair Loss?
Hair loss may appear in the form of different types, varying from hair thinning to complete baldness. The most common cause of hair loss is genetics, in both men and women, causing male- and female- pattern baldness, respectively.
If a man notices gradual thinning of the hair in their hairline (the frontal part of the head), known as receding hairline, this is usually the first sign of male-pattern hair loss. A person will then probably notice vertex hair thinning and temple hair loss. This type of hair loss may progress further with crown baldness or facial hair loss too. Eventually, if left untreated, this leads to the classic horseshoe “cul-de-sac” pattern, in which the top of the scalp is completely bald with the remaining hairs on the sides of the head.
Hereditary hair loss in women leads to female-pattern hair loss. A woman may observe some broadening in the hair, mainly on the top of the scalp. There is diffuse hair thinning because of the increased hair shedding or hair volume reduction. Hairline usually remains intact.
One may experience generalized hair thinning in the condition named telogen effluvium. It differs from other forms of hair thinning by the small white keratin lump at the root of the hair, which fell out. A person may experience diffuse hair thinning, mainly at the top of the head. In very rare cases, there might be a hairline recession.
Entire scalp balding may also occur in some types of hair loss, mostly as a part of some medical conditions or as a side-effect of some medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, or in chronic physical or emotional stress. Even total-body hair loss may occur in that cases, but men are more susceptible to losing hair in some body parts. Beard, for example, is one of the areas affected by balding. Beard balding may occur as complete balding or with bald spots or patches in the case of alopecia barbae. These bald spots can be found anywhere on the body where the hair grows on the body, as a part of alopecia universalis. However, these bald patches are primarily located on the scalp (alopecia areata) and the facial hair.
If the hair patches occur with scarring, then the person may be experiencing scarring alopecia. In this case, there is an irreversible, permanent hair loss together with the hair follicles, which are then replaced with scar tissue. It can develop slowly with very small bald patches, which gradually expand. However, it almost never extends to the entire scalp. On the other hand, if it progresses faster, it is usually accompanied by pain or itching.
The hairline can also be recessed in traction alopecia which occurs when the pulling forces or tension are applied to hair. This type of gradual hair loss in the frontal part of the head occurs when a person frequently wears their hair tightly in ponytails, braids, or pigtails. Besides the hairline recession, typically around the forehead, nape, or temples, some redness may also appear.
Causes of hair loss symptoms
The causes of hair loss are various. Some of them are related to temporary hair loss, while some may lead to permanent hair loss.
The cause of your hair loss can determine whether your hair will fall out gradually or abruptly, or it will thin, whether it could regrow on its own, or will require treatment or immediate care to prevent further or permanent hair loss. The hair loss can be caused by:
- Genetics. Hereditary hair loss (androgenic alopecia) represents the most common type of hair loss. It can affect both men and women in male- or female- pattern baldness. Although it can begin early in life, it usually becomes noticeable later in life as one age. If you know someone in your family suffering from hair loss following a specific pattern, that means that you may have inherited genes that can make your hair follicles shrink and eventually stop growing hairs. Men lose hair differently than women. While men usually present with the receding hairline, progressing to the crown area, leading to the horseshoe pattern, women are more likely to have hair thinning on the top of the head with a broadening at some parts of the scalp. Several treatment options exist for genetic hair loss.
- Certain medical conditions. Several medical conditions may cause hair loss. One of such diseases is alopecia areata, in which the immune system attacks its own hair follicles and causes hair loss, or more precisely, bald patches. It is not unusual that some skin conditions and hair growth conditions cause hair loss, for example, scalp psoriasis, lichen planus, or scalp infections, like ringworm infection. Lupus can cause hair loss, too. Trichotillomania is also a condition characterized by compulsive pulling of the hairs causing hair loss. People suffering from diabetes mellitus are also more likely to develop alopecia areata and hair loss. Although hair loss is not a typical symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS), it can be a side effect of some medications used in MS treatment. Furthermore, just a diagnosis of this disease can be a contributing factor to stress-related hair loss. People with depression may also experience hair loss or hair thinning. Troubles with the liver may also lead to hair thinning. Although it is not so common, people with HIV infection may develop hair loss. Depending on the causing condition, the hair loss can be temporary or permanent.
- Medications. Potential side effects of certain medications can cause (usually temporary) hair loss. These medications are most commonly used in the treatment of cancer (including chemotherapy and radiation therapy), arthritis, depression, high blood pressure, heart problems, acne, gout, antibiotics, antifungals, high doses of vitamin A, blood-thinning drugs, statins, anticonvulsants, immunosuppressants, drugs for weight loss, and birth control pills and contraception in women or testosterone replacement therapy in men. However, in the case drugs cause hair loss, one should not stop taking the medications abruptly. It is essential to consult a doctor first. This type of hair loss is temporary and short-term in most cases.
- Hormonal disruptions. Hormonal changes may also cause temporary or permanent hair thinning or even hair loss. In the first place, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in females can be accompanied by significant hair thinning or even hair loss. Although not very often encountered during pregnancy, childbirth is a common trigger of hair loss in females in the postpartum period, usually in the form of telogen effluvium. Furthermore, in menopause, women experience hormonal disturbances leading to hair thinning or loss. Cessation of contraceptive therapy can also cause temporary hair loss. Another significant hormonal cause of hair loss is thyroid dysfunction. It is usually an overactive thyroid leading to hair loss, but interestingly, underactive thyroid may also have this symptom.
- Dietary and nutritional deficiencies. Low protein diets or other nutritional deficiencies may lead to hair thinning. Nutritional deficiency can affect both hair structure and hair growth. Anemia, particularly iron deficiency anemia, is a very common cause of hair thinning. Zinc, niacin, fatty acid, selenium, biotin, vitamin E deficiencies may all lead to hair thinning.
- Stress. Hair loss or hair thinning following the physical or emotional trauma or shock is actually quite common. It is not unusual for a person to start losing or thinning hair in depression or during stressful periods.
- Excessive hairstyling. Aggressive hair treatments may cause hair damage and, consequently the hair loss. Excessive coloring, permanents, or hairstyles tightly pulling the hair back, such as ponytails, can cause different types of hair loss.