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September 01, 2023
By Sammie Musa, PharmD
Hair loss, medically known as alopecia, is a concern that affects millions of people worldwide. While it's normal to lose some hair each day as part of the natural hair growth cycle, excessive and noticeable hair loss can be distressing. A luscious mane is often associated with youth, vitality, and beauty, making hair loss a topic of great concern for many. But what are the factors that contribute to this phenomenon? Let's delve into 10 of the common causes of hair loss.
One of the most significant factors influencing hair loss is genetics. Androgenetic alopecia, commonly referred to as male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness, is largely determined by your family history. If you have close relatives who experienced hair loss, there's a higher chance you might experience it too. This type of hair loss is typically characterized by a receding hairline in men and thinning hair along the crown of the scalp in both men and women.
Hormones play a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions, including hair growth. Imbalances in hormones can trigger hair loss. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, and pregnancy can lead to hormonal fluctuations that disrupt the hair growth cycle. In these cases, addressing the underlying hormonal issue can sometimes help mitigate hair loss.
Certain medical conditions and medications can cause hair loss as a side effect. Conditions like alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that attacks hair follicles, can lead to sudden and patchy hair loss. Additionally, treatments such as chemotherapy, commonly used in cancer treatment, can cause temporary hair loss due to the impact on rapidly dividing cells, including hair follicles. Other medication that can cause hair loss include:
Hair loss can be a side effect of various medications due to their impact on the hair growth cycle. Here is a list of some medications that have been associated with hair loss:
Chemotherapy Drugs: These drugs are used to treat cancer and work by targeting rapidly dividing cells, including hair follicles. Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy.
Anticoagulants: Blood-thinning medications like heparin and warfarin have been reported to cause hair loss in some individuals.
Antidepressants: Certain antidepressants, particularly those in the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can sometimes lead to hair loss.
Antihypertensive Medications: Beta-blockers, a type of medication used to treat high blood pressure, can occasionally cause hair thinning.
Acne Medications: Isotretinoin, a powerful medication used to treat severe acne, can lead to hair thinning in some individuals.
Lipid-Lowering Drugs: Statins, which are used to lower cholesterol levels, have been linked to hair loss as a potential side effect.
Anticonvulsants: Some medications used to manage seizures, such as valproic acid, have been associated with hair loss in certain cases.
Immunosuppressants: Drugs used to suppress the immune system, such as cyclosporine, can sometimes lead to hair loss.
Hormonal Medications: Hormone-based medications like hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills), hormone replacement therapy, and certain prostate medications can influence hair growth patterns.
Thyroid Medications: Both overactive and underactive thyroid conditions can cause hair loss. Medications used to treat thyroid disorders may also have an impact on hair growth.
Gout Medications: Some gout medications, like colchicine, have been associated with hair loss as a potential side effect.
Antifungal Medications: Certain antifungal medications, particularly those used for systemic fungal infections, may lead to hair loss.
Weight Loss Medications: Some weight loss medications and treatments can affect hair growth due to their impact on the body's metabolism and nutrient absorption.
Medications for Autoimmune Diseases: Drugs used to manage autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, can sometimes cause hair loss.
A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein is essential for healthy hair growth. Deficiencies in nutrients like iron, zinc, biotin, and vitamins A and D can contribute to hair loss. Crash diets or extremely restrictive eating patterns can also deprive the body of essential nutrients, affecting the hair growth cycle.
Physical and emotional stress can take a toll on the body, including the hair. Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss triggered by significant stress, illness, or traumatic events. It causes hair follicles to prematurely enter the resting phase of the hair growth cycle, leading to shedding a few months later.
Excessive hairstyling, especially those involving heat (like blow-drying, straightening, or curling) and tight hairstyles (like braids or ponytails), can damage the hair shaft and contribute to hair loss. This condition is known as traction alopecia.
As we age, our hair naturally thins out. The rate of hair growth slows down, and hair follicles may shrink, producing finer and shorter hair. This process is more noticeable in men and women as they reach their 40s and 50s.
Environmental factors can play a role in hair loss. Exposure to pollutants, UV radiation, and harsh chemicals can damage the hair and scalp, affecting the health of hair follicles.
Certain medical conditions like lupus and diabetes can contribute to hair loss. The body's response to these conditions can disrupt the hair growth cycle.
In some cases, the body's immune system can mistakenly attack healthy hair follicles, leading to conditions like alopecia areata and frontal fibrosing alopecia.
Understanding the factors that contribute to hair loss is the first step toward addressing the issue.
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