Hair loss (alopecia) can affect just your scalp or your entire body. It can be the result of heredity, certain medications or an underlying medical condition. Anyone — men, women and children — can experience hair loss.
Baldness typically refers to excessive hair loss from your scalp. 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 or 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 particular type of hair loss.
Hair loss can appear in many different ways, depending on the problem that's causing it. It can come on suddenly or gradually and affect just your scalp or your whole body. Some types of hair loss are temporary, while others are permanent.
Signs and symptoms of hair loss may include:
When to see a doctor
Male-pattern baldness typically appears first at the hairline or top of the head. 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 ...
Patchy hair loss (alopecia areata)
In the type of patchy hair loss known as alopecia areata, hair loss occurs suddenly and 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. ...
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. As people age, hair tends to gradually thin. Other causes of hair loss include hormonal factors, medical conditions and medications.
Hormonal changes and imbalances can also cause temporary hair loss. This could be due to pregnancy, childbirth, discontinuation of birth control pills or the onset of menopause.
Other causes of hair loss
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to first bring your concerns to the attention of your family doctor. He or she may refer you to a dermatologist — a doctor who specializes in the treatment of skin problems.
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:
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, and accompanying symptoms are considered when making the diagnosis.
Biopsies and samples
Treatments and drugs
For some types of hair loss, hair may resume growth without any treatment. In other situations, treatments may help promote hair growth or hide hair loss.
Medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hair loss include:
Surgical procedures to treat baldness are expensive and can be painful. Possible risks include infection and scarring.
Wigs and hairpieces
Lifestyle and home remedies
These tips may help you avoid preventable types of hair loss:
If you are otherwise well nourished, taking nutritional supplements has not been shown to be helpful.
Last Updated: 2012-03-29
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