Hair loss is certainly not a problem confined to men. In fact, nearly 50% of women show some signs of hair loss and thinning by age 50, making this quite a common situation, and one that can cause a significant amount of psychological distress.
Everyone starts life with a fixed number of hair-growing follicles on their scalp, and these hairs grow in little tufts of 3-4 shafts. Hair shafts grow about 10-12cm per year, and each hair can grow for about 3 years before being shed normally. Thinning hair is noted when the hair numbers in the little tufts start to reduce. Women will notice the hair loss with an apparently widening hair part on the crown first (unlike in men where the temples are usually affected first), and this can occur in quick phases of shedding alternating with stability.
There are quite a few different causes for hair loss – ill health/severe stress, sun damage, medications, autoimmune conditions, genetic predisposition, nutritional deficiencies or hormonal imbalances can all contribute. All of these causes can be managed, but all in different ways, and so it is important to get a firm diagnosis first before embarking on any treatments so that you are not wasting time (and money) with an ineffective course of treatment.
It’s a good idea to have a discussion with your GP who will be able to take a history, examine the scalp and hair shafts with a dermoscope, order bloods tests and sometimes arrange biopsy of the scalp to confirm the cause of hair loss. Management is most useful at reducing the hair loss rather than improving the hair density, so early intervention is essential for a good outcome (i.e. before too much hair has been lost).
More info can be found at www.dermnetnz.org (search hair loss)
Dr Cath Hester
These articles are not intended to replace a one-to-one relationship with a qualified health professional or as specific medical advice. They are intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from experience and research in the scientific literature. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon a partnership with a qualified health care professional.