Causes of Female Alopecia

There are two different types of female alopecia, medically known as anagen effluvium and Telogen effluvium. Anagen effluvium is generally due to internally administered medications, such as chemotherapy agents, that poison the growing hair follicle Telogen effluvium, is due to an increased number of hair follicles entering the resting stage.

The most common causes of telogen effluvium are:

  • Physical stress: surgery, illness, anemia, rapid weight change
  • Emotional stress: mental illness, death of a family member
  • Thyroid abnormalities
  • Medications: High does of Vitamin A - Blood pressure medications - Gout medications
  • Hormonal causes: pregnancy, birth control pills, menopause

Causes of temporary alopecia include:
  • Medication - Drugs used to treat cancer, blood thinners, antidepressants and high blood pressure medications, as well as birth control pills and high doses of vitamin A, may cause hair loss
  • Diet - Too little protein and too little iron in your diet can lead to hair loss
  • Stress or illness - You may begin losing hair one to three months after a stressful situation, such as major surgery. High fevers, severe infections or chronic illnesses can result in hair loss
  • Childbirth - You may lose large amounts of hair within two to three months after delivery
  • Alopecia areata - A condition in which hair loss occurs only in certain areas, resulting in hair loss patches the size of a coin or larger
  • Thyroid disease - An overactive or underactive thyroid can cause hair loss
  • Ringworm - If this fungal infection occurs on your scalp, it can cause small patches of scaling skin and some hair loss

When the above causes of telogen effluvium are reversed or altered you should see the return of normal hair growth.

The typical pattern of female pattern baldness is different than that of male pattern baldness. The hair thins all over the head, but the frontal hairline is maintained. There may be a moderate loss of hair on the crown, but this rarely progresses to total or near baldness as it may in men.

Alopecia can occur in women for reasons other than female pattern baldness. These may include temporary shedding of hair (telogen effluvium), breaking of hair (from such things as styling treatments, and twisting or pulling of hair), patchy areas of total hair loss (alopecia areata--an immune disorder causing temporary hair loss), oral medications, as well as certain skin diseases.

The hair loss of female pattern baldness is permanent. The hair loss is usually mild to moderate. No treatment is required if the person is comfortable with her appearance.

The only drug or medication currently approved to treat female-pattern baldness is minoxidil, used topically on the scalp. It may help hair to grow in 40% of the population, and in 90% it may slow the loss of hair. Hair loss recurs when its use is stopped.

Alopecia may also occur due to dieting. Diet programs which are designed or administered under the direction of a physician with prescribed meals, dietary supplements and vitamin ingestion have become popular. Sometimes the client is told the vitamins are a necessary part of the program to prevent hair loss associated with dieting. From a dermatologist's standpoint, however, the vitamins cannot prevent alopecia associated with rapid, significant weight loss. Furthermore, many of these supplements are high in Vitamin A which can magnify alopecia. Vegetarianism and dieting can result in hair loss if they cause iron deficiency. Iron and zinc supplements should be taken if the diet does not produce enough on it's own. If someone is anaemic this can cause excessive alopecia. A doctor should be consulted as a course of iron tablets may be all that's needed to sort the problem out.

Physical And Emotional Stress
Surgeries, severe illnesses and emotional stress can cause alopecia. The body simply shuts down production of hair during periods of stress since it is not necessary for survival and instead devotes its energies toward repairing vital body structures. In many cases there is three month delay between the actual event and the onset of hair loss. Furthermore, there may be another three month delay prior to the return of noticeable hair regrowth. This then means that the total hair loss and regrowth cycle can last 6 months or possibly longer when induced by physical or emotional stress. There are some health conditions which may go undetected that can contribute to alopecia. These include anaemia or low blood count and thyroid abnormalities. Both of these conditions can be detected by a simple blood test.

In woman some hormonal preparations may produce hair in places where it is least desired, such as on the face.

Hormonal Change
Hormonal changes are a common cause of female alopecia. Many women do not realize that alopecia can occur after pregnancy or following discontinuation of birth control pills. It is important to remember that the alopecia may be delayed by three months following the hormonal change and another three months will be required for new growth to be fully achieved.

It is estimated that up to 45% of women suffer considerable hair loss after the birth of a baby, although hair may not fall out till three months later. A small number of woman suffer severe or even complete hair lose after pregnancy. The reason for this is hormonal. When a woman is pregnant the levels of the hormone progesterone are unusually high and this has the effect of forcing hair into the resting phase prematurely. After pregnancy when hormone level's re-balance, new hair begins to grow and eventually pushes the resting hair out. When the hair begins to fall it is usually a good sign that new growth is on the way. However the fall can last up to six months and few women find their hair never regains its former luxurious thickness. All you can do is eat a well-balanced diet to ensure that the hair has all it needs for healthy growth and treat it with care.

An underactive thyroid, a problem which is related to auto-immune disease, also leads to increased alopecia and this may be one of the first symptoms noticed. Many women suffer thyroid dysfunction after childbirth, that coupled with post-pregnancy hair loss, sometimes confuses the issue. A treatment of thyroid hormone prescribed by your doctor will usually clear up the problem up. High fevers or a local skin problem with the scalp are two more possible causes of alopecia. In fact persistent hair fall can be a symptom of such a wide variety of underlying health problems that it's always advisable to consult a doctor if you are worried in the slightest.

Female Alopecia - if you are suffering from women's hair loss, click here to find out how we can help you.

For more information and to arrange your free consultation, call The London Centre of Trichology on 0207 935 1935.