What to do About Hair Loss in Women

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Hair loss in men, although psychologically stressful, is expected and quite common, but hair loss in women is an even more unwelcome surprise.

Besides the unfair pressure imposed by society to maintain hair, if women have hair loss it could also be a sign of other diseases that must be investigated.  Medications, infection, or chemicals can also cause hair loss.

No matter the cause, there is always something that can be done to help your hair’s appearance, so don’t despair.

Causes

If a women has sudden hair loss, then it could indicate thyroid disease, or anemia, conditions which must be quickly addressed to prevent more health complications.  Lupus, diabetes, an autoimmune condition, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also be causes of sudden hair loss.  Note that any type of hair loss, sudden or not, can also be a sign of a serious disease called sarcoidosis.  Book an appointment with Dr. Gafanovich immediately to determine if there are serious causes of your hair loss

Genetics play a role in most cases of female pattern hair loss (FPHL), the most common type of hair loss. It’s characterized by thinning hair, and a progressive reduction in hair density on the crown of the scalp with sparing of the frontal hairline, according to the Ludwig scale.

Hormonal changes can cause hair loss in postmenopausal women due to lower levels of hair-protective estrogen.  Pregnancy, and childbirth can also cause hair loss.  Excess testosterone can be present, as well as high levels of prolactin.  Dr. Gafanovich will test your levels with the Free and/or total T and DHEA-S tests, and will test serum prolactin levels.

Medications

Hair loss can be caused by birth control pills, and drugs used for cancer, arthritis, heart problems, and high blood pressure. Too much vitamin A may cause hair loss, so avoid vitamin A supplements.

Stress

Cortisol, the stress hormone, causes hair loss when its level is high.  Stress has been shown to be a cause of hair loss several months after a stressful event occurs.  The hair loss will be temporary.  Exercise, prayer, meditation, and a good attitude will lower stress.  It’s important to speak with your doctor about other ways of reducing stress.

Also, Dr. Gafanovich can measure your cortisol to determine if you have Cushing’s disease, and will measure 24h urine cortisol levels and use a dexamethasone suppression test.

Hairstyles and treatments.

Excessive styling, chemical treatments, or hairstyles that pull your hair, such as pigtails or cornrows, can cause traction alopecia, which may become permanent, except if you have follicle transplants.

 

Diet

Unfortunately, many women are on a calorie and nutrient restricted diet, when they shouldn’t be.  If you don’t have enough protein, or iron, it can cause hair loss.  A low-carbohydrate diet can also be bad for you, because carbohydrates can supress cortisol. So you need carbs too!

You also need enough vitamin D to have excellent hair growth, so have your levels tested and then supplement accordingly.  Stop dieting, and change what you eat to healthy proteins such as fish and lentils, and have lots of greens, and even pasta.

If you have hair loss, you should have your iron levels tested to check for anemia, or low-normal levels of iron.

Treatment

Minoxidil foam 5% is superior to the 2% solution to help hair regrowth.  Clinical effects may not be noticeable for up to 3–6 months, but emu oil and tea tree oil added to it can speed that up.  You must speak with your doctor before using it as some patients can have serious side effects from it.

Finasteride, or dutasteride help to block enzymes involved in the hair loss process.  Antiandrogens such as spironolactone, cyproterone acetate, or flutamide can be considered, and work by lowering levels of testosterone, or by inhibiting the binding of androgens to their receptors.

These drugs require a prescription and MUST NOT BE USED while pregnant.

Speak with Dr. Gafanovich for other prescription options such as estrogens, as breast cancer patients must avoid these, and other patients can still have serious side effects from these.  Do not buy estrogens, or other drugs on the internet

All these drugs may have serious side effects, so speak with your doctor before and during use.

Ketoconazole, NIzoral shampoo, is an imidazole antifungal agent with anti-inflammatory effects. Studies using ketoconazole shampoo 2% by men showed increased hair density when compared to those using a nonmedicated shampoo.  Topical application can suppress androgen receptor activity and be important in hormonally stimulated hair loss.

Low-level light therapy, by lasers, shows clinical evidence for the induction of hair growth.  In 2011 the HairMax laser comb (Lexington International LLC, Boca Raton, FL, USA) was approved by the FDA as a medical laser device marketed for the treatment of FPHL.

Hair transplants may provide the permanent solution to hair loss, but note that it too has complications.  New techniques abound, so speak with your doctor about this option.

Wigs can also be used to conceal hair loss, and a well-designed wig can be quite effective.

A women’s hair loss can be indicative of serious health issues.  So for health and cosmetic reasons, speak with Dr. Gafanovich to help you prevent and treat it, and to treat the cause of the condition.