Millions of people are affected by hair loss. In our Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold, we discussed some of the causes of hair loss and treatment options.
Meghan Kulig: What is the most common cause of hair loss?
Dr. Arnold: The most common cause is hereditary hair loss. It can happen to men and women. About 80 million Americans are affected by this type of hair loss. Men more frequently have a receding hair line or develop a bald patch, whereas women tend to have thinning hair or notice a widening part.
Meghan Kulig: Are there diseases that can cause hair loss?
Dr. Arnold: Yes, multiple diseases can cause hair loss. One condition, called alopecia areata, is thought to occur when the body's immune system attacks its own hair. There can be loss of hair on the head and also other parts of the body, like eyelashes and eyebrows. Sometimes hair loss can be the result of thyroid problems or anemia or occur during treatment for cancer.
Meghan Kulig: Are there causes of hair loss unique to women?
Dr. Arnold: Sometimes women can have hair loss after giving birth, which is temporary. Some women experience hair loss while taking birth control pills or after stopping birth control pills. Menopause can trigger hair loss for some women as well.
Meghan Kulig: How about diet and food choices that can affect hair loss?
Dr. Arnold: Losing a significant amount of weight may cause some temporary hair loss. Individuals suffering from eating disorders may experience hair loss. Not getting enough protein or iron in your diet can contribute to hair loss. Too much vitamin A may also cause hair loss.
Meghan Kulig: Tell us about hair care and hair loss.
Dr. Arnold: You can damage your hair by frequently using dyes, blow dryers, or flat irons. Damaged hair is more brittle and can break off more easily. The old wives' tale that you should brush your hair one hundred strokes a day is a myth. Try to pick hair elastics and hair clips that are designed to be more gentle, for example, ones that have rubber or fabric padding. A few other styling tips include using a wide tooth comb and avoiding vigorously towel drying your hair. Try to let it air dry when you can. If you go swimming, wash your hair afterwards to get rid of pool chemicals and use conditioner.
Meghan Kulig: What can people do about hair loss?
Dr. Arnold: See a healthcare provider such as a dermatologist, who can fully evaluate you to find out why you are having the hair loss. There are many causes of hair loss, from medications to medical conditions to even simple things like how you are styling your hair. There are prescription and over the counter medication options as well as surgical treatments.