Hair Loss

Dermatology A to Z


Hair Loss

Hair loss or thinning is a frequent complaint seen in the dermatology clinic. Hair loss may be a sign of an underlying significant medical illness, hormone, or endocrine disturbance, but is more often due to other causes.

Causes of Hair loss/thinning

Telogen Effluvium: 1 to 8 months following an accident, severe illness, hospitalization, new medications, weight loss, childbirth or emotional shock; a sudden generalized hair loss may occur. The hair loss is not permanent and will regrow.

Physiologic Thinning:  Hair changes in texture and thickness as part of the normal aging process. In general, the hair becomes thinner, less oily and looses body or texture with age. Conditioners and changes in shampoo and hair care routines may help somewhat.

Androgenetic Female Alopecia: Women in families with a history of male pattern baldness (vertex to frontal) may experience thinning of their hair in the same areas in which the male family members are bald. The women rarely become bald in these areas but significant thinning and loss of hair may occur in the same distribution.

Alopecia Areata: Complete loss of hair in a localized area with no abnormality (redness or scaling) of the scalp is not uncommon. This condition is related to an immune reaction to the hair and medical therapy may be necessary or helpful.

Anagen Effluvium: Some people on certain drugs or medications (especially chemotherapy for malignancy) may experience rapid or total loss of growing hair.

Signs or symptoms that your hair loss may be due to underlying medical problems include:

  • Anemia: fatigue, tiredness, loss of energy
  • Infection: fever, weight loss or gain, erythema or scaling of scalp
  • Thyroid: irregular heart rate, dry skin, temperature instability
  • Endocrine: pigmentation abnormality, blood pressure changes, menstrual irregularities, excess unwanted hair growth, voice, muscular or sexual behavior changes

If your doctor feels underlying medical problems are contributing to your hair loss, he or she may order additional lab testing or consultations.

Despite the fact that your hair may be thinning, women rarely go bald. There are no drugs or medications to prevent baldness. Rogaine (minoxidil) is a medication approved by the FDA for the treatment of both male and female hair loss. It is available without a prescription. Other treatments for severe thinning include hair transplant surgery, wigs or hairpieces and scalp crayons for less severe hair thinning. Propecia (finesteride) is also approved for male pattern baldness.