Hair loss commonly referred to as Alopecia generally develops gradually. There are many causes of hair loss, and depending on the person, hair loss may occur in different ways. In addition to medications, illness, heredity, and stress, thinning hair and hair loss can also occur due to hormonal changes such as those that happen during menopause.
Up to 50% of women will experience significant hair loss.
Doctors diagnose hormonal hair loss using various tests.
Activity, hydration, and stress reduction can alleviate menopausal hair loss.
Hormonal hair loss may be temporary or permanent.
Is it common to lose hair?
Although hair thinning and loss are frequently attributed to men, it is a challenge faced by both genders. Some studies suggest up to 50% of women experience significant hair loss in their lifetime. There are two primary causes of hair loss in women — androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium hair loss.
Telogen effluvium hair loss
Telogen effluvium is hair loss caused by many hair follicles simultaneously reaching the telogen growth phase. The telogen, or resting, a phase of hair growth is the stage where the follicle “rests” and the hair falls out. The events that lead to telogen effluvium can cause up to 70% of your hair to abruptly stop growing. Depending on the individual, this type of hair loss can be temporary or permanent. The most common causes of this type of hair loss include:
- Extreme physical chock to the body (childbirth, illness, surgery);
- Significant stress;
- Abnormal thyroid function;
- Certain medications;
- Hormonal changes (related to birth control, pregnancy, menopause).
Androgenetic alopecia is hair loss that occurs when male sex hormones affect the hair follicle. When androgenetic alopecia occurs in men, it is called male pattern baldness; in women, it is referred to as female-pattern hair loss (FPHL), which affects as many as one-third, or 30 million, of all women across the United States. Although women may experience FPHL for a variety of reasons, women who are particularly likely to experience FPHL:
- Are over the age of 40;
- Wear tight hairstyles, like ponytails;
- Regularly use hash hair chemicals;
- Just had a baby;
- Use certain medications;
- Recently had chemotherapy treatments;
- Are experiencing menopause.
How do you know if your hair loss is hormonal?
Hair loss is a common occurrence during menopause. Although hair thinning and loss are both subtler in women than in men, they still occur and can be concerning and frustrating. Research shows that hair loss during menopause is the result of hormonal imbalance.
During menopause, the levels of two essential hormones — progesterone, and estrogen — change. Estrogen and progesterone play a role in helping hair grow and remain on the head for longer periods (before naturally shedding). When these hormone levels decrease, hair grows slower and thinner.
Reduced levels of progesterone and estrogen also lead to increased production of androgens, which are male hormones. Androgens cause hair follicles to shrink, leading to hair loss on the head. Androgens may also cause facial hair growth in some women.
How do doctors diagnose hair loss?
Hair shed happens every day. Typically, the human head sheds between 50 and 100 hairs throughout the day. This occurs as part of the natural process in which new hair grows in while old hair falls out. Hair loss occurs when hair loss outpaces hair growth.
If you notice hair falling out in clumps, or are concerned about losing more than 125 hairs each day, a doctor can perform tests to help determine if hair loss is hormonal or due to another cause. Before diagnosing a specific cause for hair loss and providing potential ways to stop hair loss during menopause, your doctor will perform several tests to better understand the underlying cause of reduced hair growth.
Examples of such tests may include:
- Blood tests to check for vitamin, mineral, and specific hormone levels (including thyroid and sex hormones).
- Examination of the scalp under a special microscope.
- Scalp biopsy to examine the scalp skin.
- A “pull test” to see how many hairs come out when pulled.
How can I stop hair loss during menopause?
For women going through menopause, hair loss is (almost) always related to hormonal changes; however, stressors, illness, nutritional factors, and hair care may also play a role. Let's discuss a few tips for women to treat hair loss and improve their overall hair quality.
Physical activity has many benefits. Regular exercise helps reduce the impact of, or even prevents, some common symptoms of menopause. Incorporating some form of activity into your daily routine can help improve your mood, prevent insomnia, and reduce weight gain. All these are important factors in maintaining hormone balance, which is vital for healthy hair.
Excess stress can lead to hormonal imbalance. Incorporating stress-relieving tools such as yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises may reduce stress and other menopausal symptoms, including hormonal changes that impact hair health.
Our bodies are about 60% water. Many of our daily activities, together with the functions carried out by our body systems each day, require water. This includes healthy hair growth. The amount of water each person needs varies, but as a general guideline, you should aim for at least eight 8 oz glasses of water each day.
Eat a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet that is low in fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is another way to fight menopausal hair loss. It is also important to include vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B6, folic acid, and essential fatty acids. Fatty acids can be found in everyday foods such as almonds, salmon, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and tuna.
Embrace natural hairstyles
Tight hairstyles and those that involve chemical processes can lead to damage and breakage. Also, styling tools, extensions, and hair care products with harsh and artificial chemicals may impact scalp health, leading to slowed hair growth. If possible, avoid heated styling tools and chemical treatments.
Some medications can lead to hair loss, as can certain illnesses. If you experience hair loss, talk to your healthcare provider about your medicines to see if there is an alternative option.
When to visit a doctor?
Some types of hair loss are preventable, and some are treatable. The most effective treatments are those that occur early. When you notice hair loss, it is essential to reach out to your healthcare provider as quickly as possible. They can work with you to learn more about the causes of your thinning hair and recommend personalized remedies.
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