Female baldness is a very distressing yet common problem for many women, whether you are still young or in your senior years. It may start with the notice of more hair in your hairbrush, an increased amount of hair collecting in your shower drain, or even the appearance of an area of hair diminishing in volume. Some experts say that by the time you notice a thinner patch of hair, you've lost nearly fifty percent of the hair in that area. Female baldness is very rarely characterized by total baldness, but because of society's aesthetic view of females, any noticeable amount of hair loss may be considered devastating.
Types of Female Hair Loss
Although baldness itself is not lethal, it is important to isolate its cause as some forms of hair thinning are related to an underlying medical condition. Autoimmune disorders such as lupus or metabolic conditions like diabetes can result in thinning hair. Another cause of overall hair thinning is thyroid disease. So it is important to alert your doctor of any hair changes you may experience over time.
Female baldness is most often diagnosed as one of the following conditions:
- Telogen Effluvium
- Androgenetic Alopecia
- Alopecia Areata
Telogen effluvium is characterized by a massive shedding of the hair all over the scalp. This form of baldness is not isolated to any particular area of the scalp; rather, it results in diffuse shedding that usually begins a few months after a massive shock or stress to the body. The most notable aspect of telogen effluvium is that it does not necessarily begin during the stress period, but after. More importantly, the condition is reversible, although chronic forms of telogen effluvium have been noted and are usually linked to ongoing disease or nutritional deficiencies.
Causes of telogen effluvium include:
- Crash dieting that results in nutritional deficiencies
- Hormonal changes (i.e. menopause, postpartum)
- An underlying illness (i.e. viral, bacterial, diabetes, thyroid disease)
- Pharmaceutical medications
Severe hormonal shifts that can follow menopause or the discontinuation of birth control pills sometimes result in female baldness due to the rapid decline of estrogen. Certain herbs such as Don Quai and Chasteberry can help to rebalance women's hormones without the utilization of prescription drugs. Thyroid diseases such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism are also characterized by a diffuse thinning of the hair.
Androgenetic alopecia results from an increase in androgens or an increased sensitivity to certain androgens. This condition is sometimes regarded as the female form of male-pattern baldness. Whether it is caused by a decline in estrogen, as is the case during menopause, or an overall increase in testosterone, androgenetic alopecia results in a different pattern of hair loss than that found in male-pattern baldness. This form of female baldness causes diffuse thinning at the top of the head while the crown and hairline remain intact. Your doctor may prescribe an antiandrogen to decrease blood levels of androgens, though some women prefer to take a natural substance called Evening Primrose Oil which contains gamma linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that inhibits the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Dihydrotestosterone is a hormonal compound that has long been implicated in male-pattern baldness.
Nioxin products claim to contain a formula that aids in the removal of DHT from the scalp. This supplementary hair system may provide positive results in treating female hair loss.
Alopecia areata is a patchy form of female baldness caused by an autoimmune disorder. In this case, the immune system remains overactive and begins to attack the hair follicle for unknown reasons. This condition usually manifests itself in small dime-sized bald spots that grow to be larger quarter-sized sections of missing hair. Sometimes this condition clears up on its own, but your dermatologist may prescribe cortisone shots to control any underlying inflammation.
The treatment options you receive will depend largely on the knowledge and expertise of your doctor. Some doctors consider most female baldness to be genetic and recommend Rogaine. Doctors who are immersed in the natural health field may check for blood and hormonal disorders or nutritional deficiencies before issuing a diagnosis.
The explanation of "genetics" may be far too simple. Therefore, it is important for women who suffer from female hair loss to find a sympathetic practitioner who will investigate the issue to rule out certain causes and conditions. In the meantime, many women opt for wigs to disguise the hair loss, and using a wig or hairpiece can significantly decrease the devastating psychological effects of female hair loss.