Hair Loss: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatments
Hair loss, or alopecia, is something that many men have to deal with at some point in their life. Most people lose about 50 to 100 stands of hair a day. However, some may start to notice an increase in their hair loss. According to the American Hair Loss Association, androgenetic alopecia or common male pattern baldness accounts for more than 95% of hair loss in men. By the age of 35, two-thirds of American men will experience some degree of appreciable hair loss, and by the age of 50, approximately 85% of men have significantly thinning hair.
There are many factors that can contribute to hair loss, but if you start to notice you are losing more hair than normal, you should be aware of the signs and causes so you can talk to your doctor about best next steps.
What does hair loss look like?
Hair loss can present in many ways. Some will notice that they are losing their hair gradually, while others will notice it very suddenly. Here are a few signs of hair loss:
- Gradual thinning on the top of the scalp – This is the most common type of hair loss, and usually starts appearing as people age. Men will typically start noticing a receding hairline along their forehead and women might notice the widening of their part.
- Circular or patchy bald spots – You may start to notice the thinning of hair or circular bald spots near the crown of your scalp.
- Sudden loss of hair – Stress and physical or emotional shock can cause hair to fall out at a quicker rate. You may notice clumps of hair falling out when you wash your hair or brush it. While it may be shocking to see, this symptom of hair loss usually just causes thinning and is typically temporary.
- Full body hair loss – Certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, can cause hair loss all over your body, including your scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes. Hair will typically grow back after treatment is complete.
What are the causes of hair loss?
There are many factors that can contribute to hair loss.
- Family history – The most common cause of hair loss is because of a hereditary condition. Your risk of hereditary hair loss increases if you have relatives who have experienced hair loss.
o Male hereditary hair loss, also known as male pattern baldness, typically starts in males around the age of 30, but it can present anytime after puberty. Hair loss typically starts with a receding of the hairline, followed by thinning or balding at the crown of the head.
o Female hereditary hair loss, also known as female pattern baldness, typically starts between the ages of 30-40, and may become more noticeable after menopause. Women will typically notice a thinning at the top of their head while maintaining their frontline hairline.
- Hormonal changes – Changes in hormones can cause hair loss. Individuals who suffer with thyroid problems may start to notice an increase in the amount of hair they are losing. Additionally, women will notice hair loss due to pregnancy, childbirth or menopause when their body is experiencing hormonal changes. Some medication may help control these hormone imbalances. Talk with your doctor to go over your options.
- Medications or supplements – Certain drugs can cause a side effect of hair loss. If you are starting a new medications or treatment talk to your doctor about what some of the side effects may be.
- Stressful events – Those under a lot of stress or who have just experienced a traumatic event may notice hair loss. This type of hair loss is typically temporary, and your hair will grow back.
How can I prevent hair loss?
Most men and women experience hair loss because of hereditary factors. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent this type of hair loss. However, you can follow a few rules of thumb to hopefully slow down the process:
- If you are losing hair, switch to a gentle shampoo, such as a baby shampoo, when washing your hair. Also, try to wash your hair less frequently. Aim for every other day instead of every day. When drying your hair after the shower, try to pat your hair dry instead of rubbing it.
- Avoid style products and tools, such as blow dryers, hair straighteners or bleaching products.
- Avoid twisting, tugging or rubbing of your hair. If you need to use a brush, use a wide-tooth comb.
What treatment options are available for hair loss?
If you are experiencing hair loss and are interested in treatments to improve your hair growth or slow down the process, there are a few treatment options available.
1. Medications – If you are interested in taking the next step to improve your hair loss, talk to your primary care doctor about what medications are available. There are a few over-the-counter options, which usually consist of topical creams and gels. Your primary care physician may recommend other supplements to take in conjunction with the over-the-counter cream. It is important to note that these creams can cause scalp irritation and hair growth in adjacent areas, such as your forehead or face.
Your primary care doctor may also suggest a prescription drug to help treat hair loss. One popular drug is finasteride (Propecia), which is an oral medication that can help with male-pattern baldness. Those using Propecia will have to take it every day to slow hair loss. Some rare side effects include diminished sex drive and impaired sexual function.
2. Medical Procedures – If you find that medication is not giving you the results you are looking for, a more drastic approach would be medical procedures.
Hair transplant surgeries involve moving small plugs of skin that have hair follicles and placing them on the bald areas of your scalp. This procedure works best for those with hereditary hair loss, but because this type of hair loss is gradual, you may need multiple procedures over time.
Scalp reduction surgery requires the surgeon to remove part of your scalp that lacks hair. The area is then closed with a piece of your scalp that does have hair.
It is important to note that medical procedures are often very expensive, and they have the possibility of risk, including wide scars, infection and patchy hair growth. You also risk the chance of the transplant not taking, which would mean you would have to repeat the surgery.
If you notice an increase in your hair loss, schedule an appointment with your Ochsner Primary Care doctor. They can determine if there are any underlying causes and help determine the best next steps.