Although hair loss can affect anyone at any age, it’s typically seen in men starting in their late 20s and women starting in their late 30s. Regardless of the cause, hair loss can have a negative effect on both appearance and self-confidence. Fortunately, modern advancements in the field of hair restoration have yielded a variety of treatments that are surgical, non-surgical and medical. These treatments usually provide patients with a fuller head of hair that looks and feels natural and it enables them to enjoy a younger appearance and improved self-confidence.
What Are the Causes of Hair Loss?
Hair loss, also known medically as alopecia, is a normal, natural process that happens to everyone every day. People lose between 50 and 100 hairs per day on average. This lost hair is replaced in most people by new hair. Unfortunately, some individuals experience more noticeable and permanent hair loss. This occurs when new hair fails to grow in place of the old hair.
There are a variety of possible causes of hair loss. These can include hormones, health problems, fever, genetics and environmental factors. Regardless of what’s causing permanent hair loss, it’s essential for people who want to re-grow their hair to know that there are steps they can take to address the problem and help them regain their full head of hair.
Are Only Men Affected by Hair Loss?
Although men are somewhat more likely to experience hair loss, women can also struggle with this issue. Research has shown that approximately 40 percent of hair loss cases affect women.
How Much Shedding Is Normal?
To find out what defines excessive hair loss, it’s necessary to start by determining how much of the hair is being lost to normal shedding.
Hair has growth cycles. Each individual hair is always in one of the three stages of this process: growing (anagen), resting (telogen) or shedding. While hair is in the growth stage, living cells are constantly dividing inside of the hair root, which triggers hair growth. Between 85 and 90 percent of a person’s hair is in this stage at a given time.
When the growing stage is finished, the hair enters the resting stage, wherein the cells in the root stop dividing and the hair ceases growth. Roughly 10 to 15 percent of a person’s hair is in this stage at a given time.
In the final stage, shedding takes place. The hair disconnects from the follicle and falls out. Any hair you see in your brush just completed this stage. It’s perfectly normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs every day. The resting and shedding stages together last between two and six months. When the hair is lost, it will be replaced by a new one in the same root and the growth cycle begins anew.
The hair on your scalp grows at a rate of around half an inch per month. As you get older, this rate becomes slower.
When you seek treatment for hair loss, Dr. Hamilton will ask for your complete medical history and he will closely examine your scalp. You will be asked questions about your diet, any family history of hair loss, recent health problems, hair care routine and what medications you take, including any supplements you’ve used over the last six months.
In some cases, a scalp tissue biopsy and laboratory analysis may be necessary to help determine the cause of your hair loss.
The Different Types of Hair Loss
Male/Female Pattern Baldness: Androgenic Alopecia
While many potential causes of hair loss exist, most are caused by a hereditary issue: androgenic alopecia.
Heredity is the most common reason for thinning hair and baldness. This issue can be inherited from either parent’s side of the family. Women who have hereditary hair loss typically struggle with thinning hair but they usually do not become fully bald. Androgenic alopecia can begin during adolescence or in a person’s 20s or 30s. There is no known cure for androgenic alopecia, but there is a variety of treatments that may be able to help.
Here is how it works: Testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, is exposed to an enzyme in the hair follicles known as 5-alpha reductase. The enzyme metabolizes the testosterone to create a related hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Strangely, although DHT can actually cause new hair to grow, also causes hair to be lost. On certain portions of your scalp, as determined by your genetic profile, the follicles there actively seek DHT. This causes them to “overdose” on the hormone, which makes them atrophy (shrink). This atrophy leads to shorter hair growth cycles or makes the hair spend longer periods in the resting stage. The hair gradually becomes weaker and thinner until it falls out. It is not replaced with new hair.
The process of going bald is a gradual one. It happens as a greater number of hairs enter the resting stage and fall out. If there is any hair remaining in the location of the balding, growth is sluggish, and the hair is very thin. Hair may continue to grow in the affected area, even in relative abundance. However, these are short, fine and barely noticeable hairs called “vellus hair” that never develops into normal scalp hair.
As balding advances, there is increasingly diminished metabolism occurring in the hair follicles. This greatly reduces the blood supply to the scalp and often causes the skin there to shrink. As the skin becomes thinner, the sebaceous (oil) glands become more active, which is the reason for the shiny scalp so many bald people experience.
Other Causes of Hair Loss
Alopecia Areata: With this form of hair loss, hair falls out and leaves behind smooth, round spots approximately the diameter of a coin or bigger. In rare cases, it may cause scalp and body hair to be lost completely. Alopecia areata can happen to people of any age, even children. While the cause is still not understood, evidence suggests that immunity might be a factor. This is demonstrated by the effects of local treatment with steroids that some patients experience. Sometimes, the hair may re-grow on its own. Aside from hair loss, individuals with alopecia areata are usually in good general health.
Childbirth: Women who are pregnant tend to lose less hair than they did prior to becoming pregnant. After childbirth, however, a significant number of hairs begin the resting stage. Two to three months after childbirth, these women will sometimes find that large quantities of hair are falling out. This can last between one and six months, but it typically returns to normal without medical intervention.
High Fever: Within one to three months following a high fever from severe influenza or a serious infection, individuals may notice that they’re losing a lot of hair. This issue normally resolves on its own.
Thyroid Disorders: Both hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) may result in hair loss. Your doctor can usually diagnose either condition by performing lab tests. Although hair loss caused by thyroid disorders can’t usually be reversed, Dr. Hamilton offers treatments that can help individuals with these problems enjoy a full head of hair.
Insufficient Protein: Poor eating habits and diets that don’t contain enough protein can result in malnutrition. In an attempt to save valuable resources, the body will make the hair enter the resting stage. After two or three months, this may be followed by massive hair loss and the hair may be easily pulled out. Naturally, such a condition can be reversed by resuming a healthy, nutritious diet that includes adequate protein.
Medication: Certain over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause some people to lose hair temporarily. These medications can include those used to treat depression, gout, hypertension, arthritis, heart problems and bleeding disorders. Furthermore, excessive doses of selenium or vitamin A may also cause temporary hair loss.
Cancer Medications: These treatments cause the cells of the hair follicles to cease normal division. As a result, the hair thins and breaks off when it comes out of the scalp. This tends to happen between one and three weeks following treatment. Patients often lose up to 90 percent of the hair on their heads. After treatment is complete, the hair normally grows back.
Birth Control: While taking oral contraceptives, women with a genetic tendency toward hair loss may lose hair. If this happens, it may be necessary to change to a different birth control pill. When these women cease use of the contraceptives, their hair will shed two or three months afterward and may continue doing so for six months. This is quite similar to what happens to women after having a baby.
Low Iron: In some cases, a lack of iron (anemia) can result in hair loss. The diet may be lacking in iron or the person may be incapable of absorbing it properly. Heavy menstruation can also cause low iron. This deficiency can easily be detected through lab tests and may be resolved by taking an iron supplement.
Chronic Illness or Major Surgery: Major surgeries can cause a severe shock to the body. Some people may find that they lose more hair for one to three months after a serious illness or major surgery. While the issue will often resolve itself after several months, people who struggle with a chronic illness may keep losing their hair.
Traction Alopecia: If the hair is consistently pulled back too tightly, it can result in permanent hair loss in the traction area.
Trichotillomania: In this condition, a person pulls their hair as a nervous habit. It typically occurs in children and may go on for years without being properly diagnosed. Chronic pulling can cause the hairs to break off or be pulled out. There may be noticeable stubbly re-growth. It can be difficult to tell this condition apart from alopecia areata.
Fungal Infection (Ringworm): There is no actual worm involved in ringworm. Rather, it’s caused by a fungus with that name. It usually starts as small, round and scaly patches on the scalp that eventually spread. These can result in swelling, oozing, redness and broken hair. Ringworm is contagious and is most often seen in children and adolescents. Good hygiene is essential for preventing the infection from spreading and using antifungal sprays or creams will help it clear up.
Poor Hair Care: Many people use harsh substances on their hair, such as bleaches, dye, relaxers and curling agents. When used properly, these products won’t normally cause damage to hair. If the products are used incorrectly, left in too long or used too frequently, however, the hair can grow brittle and become prone to breakage. If this occurs, stop using the products until the hair grows out.
In addition, brushing or washing your hair too often can also damage it. Use a conditioner after washing to help make your hair easier to brush and to prevent it from becoming dry and brittle. Hair is also more delicate when it’s wet, so avoid rubbing it vigorously with a towel to dry it or brushing it roughly or too much. Finally, use only smooth-tipped brushes and wide-toothed combs to help prevent breakage.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): Also known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome, PCOS is a hormonal disorder that is estimated to affect between six and 10 percent of women who are of childbearing age. The most prevalent signs of PCOS include male-pattern baldness, unexplained weight gain, excessive hair on the face and body, infertility, irregular periods and insulin resistance.
While nobody knows what causes PCOS, research is being performed that may help doctors understand exactly what’s happening with the condition. Some experts believe that PCOS may be caused by hyperinsulinemia, or high insulin. High levels of insulin in the blood could result in reactions that cause levels of androgens, or male sex hormones, in the ovaries to increase dramatically. This is what causes the masculine features that are often seen with PCOS. A handful of studies also suggest that PCOS is passed genetically from a prematurely balding father to his daughter. Indeed, there may be a defective gene that causes both conditions.
Hyperinsulinemia (High Insulin): New research indicates that men with very high levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and women with high levels of IGF-1 (as seen with PCOS) have the greatest likelihood of suffering from male-pattern baldness. Although the research is still in its infancy, there is growing evidence that male-pattern baldness could result from elevated insulin levels caused by consuming large amounts of refined sugars and starches, such as pasta and baked goods. Researchers hope that future evidence will determine whether male-pattern baldness can be avoided by not consuming these foods, only eating fruit with meals and using medications like Rezulin and Metformin to reduce levels of insulin.
Sun Overexposure: Researchers in Australia have found evidence to suggest that too much exposure to UV radiation from the sun can cause damage to the hair follicles and that it may be especially damaging to transplanted hair. It’s strongly recommended to use sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat when spending extended periods in the sun.
What Is the Cost for Hair Loss Treatment in Indianapolis?
The cost of treatment for hair loss varies for each person. The cost depends on the extent of the procedure to achieve your individual appearance goal. Hamilton Facial Plastic Surgery seeks to make hair restoration procedures available and affordable for everyone. To accomplish this, we offer financing options and accept cash, major credit cards and personal checks for hair transplants.
Located in Carmel and Greenwood, Dr. Hamilton specializes in hair loss solutions for men and women in Indianapolis. If you are looking to combat your hair loss with hair restoration treatment, please contact Dr. Hamilton today!