Baldness is a condition most often associated with men, but plenty of women suffer from hair loss as well. Oftentimes, women suffer with hair loss in silence, embarrassed that they're the only one experiencing baldness and failing to take any corrective action.
As many as 5 percent of women under 30 and 60 percent of those older than 70 are affected by some measure of hair loss, according to Dr. Gail Mercurio, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y. There are many common forms of hair loss in women, and a wide number of treatment and preventative options are.
Female pattern baldness
Female pattern baldness, also known as alopecia or androgenic alopecia in women, occurs when hair falls out and normal new hair does not grow in its place. While the cause of female pattern baldness is not known, family history and aging may be involved. According to Medline, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, changes in the levels of androgens, or male hormones in the female body, can occur as women reach menopause, and that can lead to thinning hair. Women frequently find the hair on their heads becomes thinner while hair elsewhere on the body may become more coarse.
Unlike baldness in men, thinning for women occurs mostly on the top and crown of the scalp. It typically begins as a widening of the center hair part. The front of the hairline rarely is affected.
Minoxidil is presently the only hair loss medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Hair transplants as well as hormone therapy also may be used to slow the process of hair loss.
Hair loss may not be a result of hormonal changes or aging. Sometimes a trauma or severe illness can interrupt the natural cycle of hair growth. Dermatologists have found that extreme stress can contribute to hair loss. Once the person recovers from the trauma and the body regulates itself, usually within three to six months, hair growth will resume as usual.
A medical condition called hyperandrogenism also may be behind female hair loss. Excessive production of male hormones may be the result of polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. According to the Mayo Clinic, women with PCOS may have enlarged ovaries and PCOS can lead to hair loss, acne, irregular menstruation, and infertility. Therapies to help regulate menstruation and ovulation can alleviate symptoms and may, in turn, help reduce hair loss.
Hormonal and bodily changes during pregnancy can lead to hair loss. This is an example of physical stress that can cause hair to become thinner. Giving birth can be a traumatic event, and hair loss can occur afterward. Women should rest assured that within a couple of months regular hair growth patterns should return.
Taking too much vitamin A may affect hair loss. The American Academy of Dermatology says the daily value for vitamin A is 5,000 international units, or IUs, per day for adults. Taking too many supplements or medications that contain vitamin A may affect hair growth patterns. Getting vitamin levels back to normal should help.
Women do not simply need to live with thinning or balding hair. By getting to the root of the problem, it is possible to find a treatment plan that can have successful results.