When it comes to hair thinning and hair loss, it isn’t just a natural part of the aging process – it’s also a natural cycle of our hair growth, rest, shedding and replacement process. In fact, we can shed anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs in a single day. That being said, there are certain medical conditions that can also attribute to the loss of hair, including hormonal changes (i.e. pregnancy, childbirth and menopause), certain medical conditions (i.e. thyroid disease, alopecia areata, scalp infections, lichen planus, stress/anxiety, vitamin deficiencies, dandruff/eczema), and medications (i.e. those used to treat cancer, high blood pressure, heart problems, arthritis, and depression.)
While hair loss doesn’t necessarily impact everyone in a negative way and is something that some people are able to cope with, it can certainly have a negative impact on others – especially their self-esteem – and can contribute to not only a decline in said self-esteem but may even lead to depression and social isolation, as it can often cause feelings of embarrassment while out in public. Both men and women can experience these feelings as a result of hair loss, though women tend to be more emotionally impacted by it.
The cause of your hair loss can be diagnosed by both your general physician or a dermatologist by going through your medical history as well as based on a physical examination. If you have hair loss that is persistent, this is a potential indicator that an underlying health issue (such as thyroid disease, as previously mentioned) could be playing a role, and you would need to have additional tests, such as blood work, to rule out any other medical causes. If your hair loss is the result of a skin or autoimmune disease, a dermatologist may opt to take a small biopsy of the skin on your scalp and send it to a laboratory for further testing. Once you receive your test results back and potential underlying causes are either ruled out or confirmed, the next step is the treatment process.
In many causes, hair loss can be the result of being deficient in certain vitamins and other nutrients that are vital to your health. If it is suspected that you are vitamin/nutrient deficient (which can also be determined through blood work), then you may need to make some dietary changes. Among some of the best foods for hair growth are eggs, which are a great source of protein, as well as berries which are packed with vitamins and other beneficial compounds known to promote hair growth – in addition to foods such as spinach, avocado, sweet potato, fatty fish (i.e. salmon), nuts and seeds. If, after implementing changes to your diet you’re still not noticing an improvement and a decline in how much hair you’re losing, medications are typically the next go-to treatment method that doctors will recommend, including both over-the-counter and prescription medication, like Minoxidil (also known as Rogaine) or Finasteride (also known as Propecia.) As all medications do, these too can come with side effects, such as irritation of the scalp as well as additional hair growth on other areas including the face and forehead. In some cases, doctors will also prescribe a corticosteroid, such as Prednisone, to individuals with alopecia areata, as this is a medication that mimics hormones created by the adrenal glands and will also help reduce inflammation – though it is important to note that corticosteroids also come with side effects, especially when taken at larger doses or for longer periods of time. Side effects that are associated with use of corticosteroids include certain eye diseases (such as glaucoma or cataracts), high blood sugar and high blood pressure, as well as fluid retention and swelling of the lower legs. Corticosteroids can also increase your risk of infection (due to weakening your immune system), calcium loss, make you more susceptible to bruising, cause thinning of the skin, and sore throat/hoarse voice. However, if your doctor has prescribed a corticosteroid then they have done so upon weighing the risks vs. benefits – just be sure to report any side effects that you experience to your physician if you do happen to be taking a corticosteroid (or any of the other aforementioned medications used to treat hair loss.)