Hair loss can start with a few extra hairs in the sink or in your comb. Later, it can progress to a bare scalp.
Baldness typically refers to excessive hair loss from your scalp and can be the result of heredity, certain medications or an underlying medical condition. Anyone — men, women and children — can experience hair loss.
Some people prefer to let their baldness run its course untreated and unhidden. Others may cover it up with hairstyles, makeup, hats or scarves. And still others choose one of the medications and surgical procedures that are available to treat hair loss. Before pursuing any treatment option, talk with your doctor about the cause of and best possible treatments for your hair loss.
The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. Pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia), the most common type of alopecia, affects roughly one-third of men and women. It's typically permanent. Other types of alopecia are temporary, including alopecia areata. It can involve hair loss on your scalp or other parts of your body.
Permanent hair loss
Temporary hair loss
When to see a doctor
No cure is available for permanent hair loss or baldness. However, you can talk to your doctor about medical treatments to slow the rate of hair loss or to hide hair loss.
Male-pattern baldness typically appears first at the hairline or top of the head (crown). It can progress to partial or complete baldness. ...
Female-pattern baldness typically starts with scalp hairs becoming progressively finer and shorter as you age. Many women first experience hair thinning and hair loss where they part their hair and ...
In alopecia areata, hair loss occurs suddenly. It usually starts with one or more circular bald patches that may overlap. ...
Hair loss can occur if you wear pigtails, braids or cornrows or use tight hair rollers. This is called traction alopecia. ...
Due to hormonal changes, irritation or damage, some hair follicles have a shorter growth phase and produce thinner, shorter hair shafts. Your hair goes through a cycle of growth and rest. The course of each cycle varies by individual. But in general, the growth phase of scalp hair, known as anagen, typically lasts two to three years. During this time, your hair grows just less than 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) a month. The resting phase is called telogen. This phase typically lasts three to four months. At the end of the resting phase, the hair strand falls out and a new one begins to grow in its place. Once a hair is shed, the growth stage begins again.
Most people normally shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. But with about 100,000 hairs in the scalp, this amount of hair loss shouldn't cause noticeable thinning of the scalp hair.
Gradual thinning is a normal part of aging. However, hair loss may lead to baldness when the rate of shedding exceeds the rate of regrowth, when new hair is thinner than the hair shed or when hair comes out in patches.
Causes of specific types of hair loss
Other causes of hair loss
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by first seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a dermatologist. Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For hair loss, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
A complete medical history, family history and physical examination can help in a diagnosis. The pattern and rate of hair loss, the appearance of nearby hairs (for example, if hairs are broken off), and accompanying symptoms are considered when making the diagnosis.
Tests may be necessary if the cause isn't apparent after the examination. These include:
Treatments and drugs
Baldness, whether permanent or temporary, can't be cured. But hair loss treatments are available to help promote hair growth or hide hair loss. For some types of alopecia, hair may resume growth without any treatment.
The types of drugs for treatment of alopecia that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration include:
Surgical procedures to treat baldness are expensive and can be painful. Possible risks include infection and scarring. It will take six to eight months before the quality of the new hair can be properly evaluated.
If you're interested in these procedures, consider only board-certified dermatologists, plastic surgeons or cosmetic surgeons, and check local and state medical boards for a record of patient complaints before choosing a doctor. Consult with this doctor to confirm the cause of your hair loss and review all treatment options, including nonsurgical ones, before proceeding with plans for surgery.
Wigs and hairpieces
With the micrograft technique, a few hairs are transplanted at a time to give a more natural hairline. ...
Coping and support
Chances are that the greatest challenge of losing your hair is coping with the change in your appearance. You may be frustrated or upset by other people's reactions or after trying various treatments with little success. If you're having difficulty coping with baldness caused by heredity, a medical condition or medical treatments, you may find some of the following suggestions helpful:
The following tips can help keep your hair healthy and may minimize the appearance of hair loss:
Last Updated: 2011-07-23
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