Summary

Loss of more than 100 strands of hair each day is called hair fall or hair loss. It is usually a symptom of an underlying condition and needs medical intervention. The causes of hair fall can range from an easily correctable vitamin deficiency to a serious condition like chemotherapy for cancer. Most often, hair fall is easily treated using simple remedies like vitamin supplementation, stress release or withdrawal of the drug causing hair fall.

If you want to know how to do ayurvedic treatment for hair fall, click on the link given here.

  1. Why does hair fall occur
  2. Causes of hair loss in men
  3. Hair fall reasons in women
  4. Hair loss due to poor nutrition
  5. Diseases that cause hair loss
  6. Medications that cause hair loss
Doctors for Hair Loss Causes

The average hair growth cycle lasts two to three years with each strand of hair growing about one centimetre every month. The cycle consists of three phases: anagen, telogen and exogen. At a time, about 90 % of the hair on your scalp is growing (anagen phase) while the remaining 10 % are in a resting phase (telogen phase). In every three to four months, the resting hair falls off (exogen phase) and is replaced by new hair. This shedding and growth of new hair is part of the normal hair growth cycle. When hair fall occurs excessively in some regions of the scalp, and new hair does not replace the lost hair strands, the condition is called hair loss.

Hair loss is a common health issue affecting both men and women. Normally, there are about 100,000 strands of hair on the scalp. Losing 50 to 100 strands of hair every day is normal as they soon grow back. However, it becomes worrisome when bald patches appear on the scalp indicating permanent hair loss. In medical terms, complete or partial loss of hair is called alopecia.

(Read more: Hair growth treatment and tips)

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Wearing a helmet and smoking are two factors that have been observed to drive hair loss more commonly in men. Here is why:

Helmet causes hair loss

If you travel long distances regularly on a two-wheeler, you should wear a helmet throughout your journey. Although wearing a helmet is mandatory for safe travel, long-term use of a helmet may damage your hair by increasing the stress on your hair or through excessive sweating. If you have problems such as dandruff and excessive sweat, this may also cause hair loss. But, this doesn't mean that you stop wearing a helmet. There is a simple solution to prevent this problem. Tie a napkin or handkerchief on your head before wearing a helmet. The napkin will soak the sweat and prevent damage and loss of hair. 

Smoking causes hair fall

Smoking is a well-established risk factor for several life-threatening health conditions. It is also associated with various negative effects on the skin. Currently, several research studies indicate that smoking has a direct adverse effect on your hair growth. Cigarette smoke affects the dermal hair papilla (the indentation at the base of a hair follicle), and the genotoxins in the smoke damage the DNA of the hair follicle causing hair loss. Baldness caused by smoking can be prevented by being aware of the adverse effects of smoking and the positive impact of smoking cessation on an individual’s health.

(Read more: How to quit smoking)

Some factors are much more likely to cause hair loss in women than in men, such as medical conditions affecting women like PCOS or anaemia. Even pregnancy can lead to hair loss in women. Here are some more reasons for hair loss in women:

Hair loss from over styling

Hairstyling and various hair care products may have a damaging effect on your hair, thus inducing hair loss.

  • Frequent bleaching and hair dyeing and regular use of hair sprays, gels, and other such products cause hair fall. Dermatologists recommend minimal use of such products for healthy hair.
  • Blow dryers, hair straighteners, and curling irons expose your hair to very high temperatures. Blow dryers also dry out the moisture in the hair shafts making your hair dry and brittle. Straighteners and curling machines use much higher temperatures than a blow dryer. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends air-drying hair and then style the dry hair. It also recommends limiting the use of hair straighteners and curlers. (Read more: Natural ways to hair straightening)
  • Hair clips and rubber bands can hold the hair too tightly, leading to breakage and hair loss.
  • If you pull and tie your hair tight in hairstyles, such as ponytails, braids, and buns, too often, it may cause a form of hair loss in the forehead area known as traction alopecia, which gives rise to a receding hairline.
  • Excessive shampooing may also lead to hair fall. More than 100 strokes of combing and hair brushing in a day can also lead to hair loss.
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Anemia causes hair loss

It is a condition in which the red blood cell (RBC) count is lower than normal or the oxygen-carrying capacity of these cells is reduced. Hence, the RBCs are unable to meet the oxygen demands of your body. The most common cause of anaemia is iron deficiency. Other causes of anaemia include deficiency of folic acid and vitamin B12, chronic inflammation, infections among others. The deficiency of these essential nutrients in anaemia leads to hair loss.

(Read more: Anemia diet)

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Hair loss due to PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a syndrome that is characterised by the development of fluid-filled cysts in the ovaries, which affects their function in women. Thinning of hair due to hair fall is one of the common symptoms of PCOS.

(Read more: PCOS herbal and home remedies)

Hair loss in pregnancy

  • Pregnancy-related hair fall usually occurs following delivery. During pregnancy, the body’s altered physiological state causes an increase in the number of hair strands that are in the resting phase. Hence, following delivery, women may experience excessive hair fall. Increased hair fall after pregnancy is not a serious problem as the condition resolves on its own within three to four months of delivery. Also, hair fall after pregnancy does not cause any bald patches; thus, no need to be stressed out about post-pregnancy hair fall.
  • If you experience hair loss during pregnancy, you might be suffering from vitamin or mineral deficiency that can be easily corrected by supplements.
  • Hair fall may also occur due to abortion, stillbirth, and miscarriage.
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Poor nutrition can also be a cause of hair loss. This includes not just deficiency, but also an excess of nutrients. Here are some of the common ones:

Hair loss due to zinc deficiency

Zinc is an essential mineral that is needed for multiple vital functions in your body. It is involved in a signalling pathway, which governs hair follicle development and hair growth. Hence, deficiency of zinc can lead to hair loss and brittle hair. Excessive hair fall due to zinc deficiency can be reversed by taking zinc supplements or including zinc-containing foods like dairy products, seafood, nuts, poultry and meat in your diet.

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Protein deficiency causes hair loss

When the protein requirement of the body is not adequately met, it leads to various health conditions. Severe deficiency of protein can lead to hair thinning and hair fall. In such conditions, the body tries to save the available protein for more vital functions. Cessation of hair growth is one of the ways by which the body compensates for a deficiency of protein. Hair loss can be observed only after two to three months of inadequate protein intake. Increasing protein intake can help to treat hair loss. You can increase the amount of protein in your diet by eating fish, eggs, and meat. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can add beans and nuts to your diet to increase your protein intake and reduce hair loss.

(Read more: Protein-rich Indian food)

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Too much Vitamin A causes hair loss

Excessive amounts of vitamin A in the body due to more intake of oral or injectable supplements can cause hair loss. As soon as you stop consuming excessive vitamin A, the hair fall subsides and hair regrowth begins.

(Read more: Vitamin A test)

There are about 30 diseases which have hair loss as one of their symptoms. The list of diseases includes but is not limited to hypo- and hyperthyroidism, anaemia, and cancer. Also, a significant amount of hair fall occurs during and after an illness which involves major surgery, flu, or a severe infection.

Eating disorders cause hair loss

Anorexia is an eating disorder in which there is a loss of appetite along with a fear of gaining weight. Due to this, the individual either does not feel hungry or does not eat and receives incomplete nutrition. A deficiency of essential nutrients required for hair growth can lead to hair loss. Bulimia is another eating disorder where the person induces vomiting after eating, resulting in the deficiency of essential nutrients leading to hair loss.

(Read more: Nutritional deficiency symptoms)

Ringworm causes hair loss

Ringworm is a fungal infection that may lead to excessive hair fall. It is a contagious disease commonly seen in children. If it is not treated in time, it may lead to baldness.

Infections cause hair loss

Following a high fever or an infection, you may suffer from hair loss for a period of four weeks to three months. This type of hair loss mostly resolves on its own. Occasionally, it requires treatment. Also, an infection of the scalp also results in significant hair loss over a period of time. Conditions such as a fungal infection, dandruff, dermatitis in the scalp, and inflammation of the hair follicles (folliculitis) affect hair growth and cause hair loss.

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Alopecia areata causes hair loss

In this disorder, there is no hair formation in the hair follicle. Hair falls abruptly from its root, creating small, round, and smooth patches or on the scalp. Alopecia areata can affect children and adults of all ages.

Hair loss due to Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is a disorder in which an individual pulls out his/her own hair. The individual may also feel an urge to pull out not only the hair from their head but from other body parts like eyelashes, eyebrows, and nostrils.

Hair loss because of cancer treatment

Certain cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy can also cause hair loss. These treatments lead to the destruction of hair follicles, a poor health status, weak metabolism and stress. However, this type of hair loss is not permanent, and hair usually grows well once the treatment is complete and the person starts recovering.

Thyroid disorders cause hair fall

An underactive thyroid gland results in a reduced production of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism) that can cause hair loss. Increased production of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) also results in hair loss. In both conditions, hair loss is seen all over the scalp rather than in specific areas. Hair loss due to thyroid diseases can be cured by taking medications prescribed by your doctor.

(Read more: Homeopathic treatment for thyroid problems)

Drug-induced hair loss involves two phases which are as follows:

  • Anagen effluvium
    It is the loss of actively growing hair. It may occur due to cancer drugs, colchicines (extract of colchicum plant), or due to poisoning with chemicals like arsenic, bismuth, and boric acid.
  • Telogen effluvium
    It is the loss of hair in the resting phase. The shedding of hair in the resting phase occurs due to medications, such as anticoagulants like heparin and warfarin; anti-hypertensives (to control high blood pressure) like beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors; hormones like oral contraceptive pills, hormone replacement therapy, and androgens; anticonvulsants (to treat epilepsy and seizures) like valproic acid, carbamazepine, and phenytoin; antidepressants and mood stabilizers; and other drugs like antithyroid drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, antipsychotic drugs, antianxiety drugs, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

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References

  1. American Academy of Family Physicians. Hair Loss. [Internet]
  2. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Hair loss
  3. American Academy of Dermatology. Rosemont (IL), US; Hair loss
  4. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Hair Loss
  5. American Pregnancy Association. [Internet]; Pregnancy And Hair Loss.
  6. American Academy of Dermatology. Rosemont (IL), US; HAIR LOSS: WHO GETS AND CAUSES
  7. World Health Organization [Internet]. Geneva (SUI): World Health Organization; Anaemia.
  8. Trüeb RM. Association between smoking and hair loss: Another opportunity for health education against smoking?. Dermatology. 2003; 206(3):189-91. PMID: 12673073
  9. Sharma L, Dubey A, Gupta PR, & Agrawal A. Androgenetic alopecia and risk of coronary artery disease. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013. Oct-Dec; 4(4): 283–287.
  10. Guo EL & Katta R. [link] Dermatol Pract Concept. 2017. Jan; 7(1): 1–10. PMID: 28243487
  11. Cranwell W, Sinclair R. Male Androgenetic Alopecia. [Updated 2016 Feb 29]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-.
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