I have several female clients currently seeing me because they are losing their hair. When I say losing their hair, it is not the mere loss of a few hairs, but the extensive daily shedding of hair, often to the point that the scalp is left bald without any trace of a hair follicle. Each of these women are losing hair for different reasons, and for that reason I thought it would be of benefit to those who read my blog posts to gain insight into why women can experience hair loss. However, let me first begin by briefly discussing how our hair grows.
During our lifetime, each hair follicle undergoes continous cycles of growth (anagen): lasts 2-6 years, resorption (catagen)-lasts approximately 3 months and rest (telogen)- allows for new hair to be pushed to the surface. The portion of the hair that is seen is called the hair shaft. That which is below the surface of the skin is called the follicle. Hair loss can occcur due to disturbances of the hair cycle, damage to the hair shaft or disorders affecting the follicle.
1. Disturbances of the hair cycle: The most common condition associated with disturbances of the hair cycle is called Telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is a nonscarring form of hair loss (alopecia) that has a short duration but is characterised by severe hair loss. It is said to occur as a result of changes to our metabolism, hormonal imbalance ((imbalance in oestrogen and progesterone ratios; polycystic ovarian syndrome http://markhincheynaturopathy.com/health-topics/; an increase in a testerone related hormone called DHT-more of this hormone on the scalp can seep into the hair follicle and result in hair loss; women should seek to have tested via their G.P. or Health Care Practitioner the following tests: free testosterone (blood test), prolactin (blood test), 17 -hydroxy-progesterone (urine/blood test) and salivary DHEA and Cortisol levels)), severe infections, chronic illness http://markhincheynaturopathy.com/category/lupus/ thyroid disorders http://markhincheynaturopathy.com/category/thyroid/, childbirth, crash diets, inadequate protein, and the use of certain medication (antibiotics, anticoagulants, anti-depressants, anti-epileptics, cardiovascualr drugs, endocrine drugs, gout medications, cholesterol lowering drugs, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs e.g. ibuprofen and ulcer medication e.g. Zantac/pariet. Normally the majority of the scalp hair is in the growth phase, with a small percentage of the hairs in the resting phase being shed daily (100-200 hair shed daily). However, the foregoing causes of telogen effluvium result in a higher percentage of the hairs (50 percent) cycling into the resting phase.
2. Damage to the hair shaft: Hair is compromised primarily of the protein keratin, which is the same substance that forms fingernails and toenails. Damage to the hair shaft caused by improper cosmetic techniques can result in hair breakage. It is suggested that there minimal damage caused by normal bleaching, dyeing, waving or straightening. However, breakage can occur with too much tension during waving; waving solutions left on too long; or if they are improperly neutralised; and waving and bleaching on the same day or too frequently. Other causes of hair breakage include excess tension in braids, ponytails, cornrows or excess friction due to helmets or orthodontia. Shampooing, combing and brushing too often can also damage hair, causing it to break. Moreover, using heat (blow dryer, curling iron, flat iron) on wet hair can cause increased damage. However, hair loss as a result of the above is reversible if the cosmetic procedure is stopped and the hair is handled gently.
3. Disorders affecting the hair follicle: Androgenetic alopecia or hereditary hair thinning is the most common form of hair loss in humans. This condition is also referred to as male pattern baldness or female hair thinning. The cause, as the name suggests, results from an imbalance in male androgens (hormones). In fact, the increase in androgens leads to the gradual diminution of the hair follicle, so that the smaller hair follicle results in a finer and shorter hair shaft. Women with hereditary thinning usually first notice a gradual thinning of their hair, mostly on the top of their heads, and their scalp becomes more visable. It should be noted that thyroid disorders and iron deficiencies can be associated with hair loss and should be ruled out prior to a diagnosis of androgenetic alopecia. Another disorder affecting hair follicle growth is called alopecia areata. It is an autoimmune disease that affects approximately 2 percent of the population. There are certain cells in the body called inflammatory cells that target the hair follicle and prevent its growth, which is what happens in the case of alopecia areata. This condition is typically characterised by patchy/extensive hair loss in scattered or oval patches.
It is important to note that hair loss can occur at any age, and of the seven female clients I am currently seeing specifically for hair loss, their ages range from 25 to 53. Moreover, because of the vast number of factors contributing to hair loss there are several natural strategies that can be followed to establish healthier, longer lasting hair. For this reason, a female losing hair as a result of a thyroid disorder will be treated differently than a female losing hair as a result of an imbalance in hormones. If you are concerned about hair loss and would like to discuss this further please write to firstname.lastname@example.org