How Stress, Hormones, Disease and Other Factors Cause Hair Loss

We all lose hair as we grow older, but specific factors can affect the growing process in a number of ways.

Normally, we lose about 50 to 100 hairs a day. However, certain conditions affect the growing process.

• Telogen effluvium, a term for overall hair loss, can be caused by hormones. “After my first pregnancy, I was convinced I had a thyroid problem,” recalls Brandy Neide of North Wilmington. “Everything went back to normal once hormones leveled out. It’s happening again right now after having the third child.”

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Hormone fluctuations aren’t limited to pregnancy. When Dr. Susan Kirchdoerffer went off birth control pills after using them for 20 years, the family care doctor experienced hair loss. Premenopausal or menopausal women frequently experience hair thinning as their hormones shift. 

Other causes include stress and surgery. For instance, you might notice hair loss three to six months after a life-changing event. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, beta-blockers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also cause hair loss.

• Thyroid disease is another possible factor. That’s because the thyroid hormone manages your basal metabolic rate and the growth of your hair, skin and nails. Hypothyroidism, known as an underactive thyroid, is common among women over 50. Hair can become brittle and break. People with hypothyroidism may also experience weight gain and depression. Hyperthyroidism, when there’s too much of the hormone, accelerates the growth cycle. You may also have palpitations and experience irritability. A blood test can determine if you have a thyroid condition.

• Alopecia areata occurs when your immune system attacks the follicles. The cause is unknown. You may have bald patches, total hair loss on the head or total hair loss all over the body. Your doctor will rule out other potential causes, including lupus or another autoimmune disease. Fungal infections can also lead to patchy baldness, Kirchdoerffer notes.

• Vascular disease affects the blood’s ability to nourish cells. If you notice hair loss on the legs, it might be because blood isn’t reaching the hair follicles, Kirchdoerffer says.

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• Androgenetic alopecia, the most common cause of thinning hair, is heredity. Women tend to see it at their hairline around their face. Men often experience a receding hairline and thinning crown. 

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