Itâ€™s normal to lose some hair every day from your scalp. The lost hair is then replaced with new hair. However, you may start having less hair because new hair does not grow back to replace lost hairs. You may also lose hair from other parts of your body. The loss of hair may be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause.
Thinning hair and baldness may be a normal part of aging.
What is the cause?
There are several types of hair loss: male-pattern baldness, local hair loss, and general hair loss.
Male-pattern baldness runs in families. This type of baldness usually causes the hair to thin above the forehead, causing a receding hairline. It also happens at the crown of the head. Over time, the bald spots increase in size. In some men, the entire top of the head is bald and hair remains on just the sides of the head.
Local hair loss is usually patchy and confined to certain areas. It may result from:
Alopecia areata, a condition in which hair is lost suddenly from a particular area, usually a small area of the scalp (the cause is unknown)
Ringworm, which is a fungal infection
Frequent use of a hot comb or hair dryer
Hairstyles that pull on the hair, such as tight ponytails or cornrows
Hot oil treatments and chemicals used in permanents and hair dyes
Repeated nervous hair pulling
Permanent skin damage, such as scarring from burns or serious skin diseases
General hair loss is when all of your hairs enter a resting phase at the same time and then fall out. The resting phase is part of the normal growth and loss cycle of scalp hair. Causes of general hair loss include:
Stress, caused by events such as a divorce or death in the family, surgery, high fever, or chronic or severe illness
Drug treatment for a medical condition
High doses of vitamin A
Alopecia universalis is a rare and severe form of baldness in which you lose all body hair, including eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair in the pubic area and armpits. The cause is not known.
Male-pattern baldness will continue for the rest of your life. Baldness caused by skin damage from a disease or burn is also likely to be permanent. Other types of baldness may be temporary and last just a few weeks or months.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your recent medical history and any history or patterns of hair loss in your family. Your provider will examine your scalp and skin. You may have blood tests or a skin scraping to check for infection.
How is it treated?
In some cases of temporary hair loss, simple changes in health habits, such as eating a healthy diet or changing how you care for your hair, may help you to stop losing hair.
Your provider may recommend medicine to slow your hair loss and stimulate hair growth. These medicines can improve hair growth or preserve hair in most men. After several months of using one of these medicines daily, you may have some hair regrowth, although the hair may not look exactly like your original hair. You must keep using the medicine every day to keep the new hair. Pregnant women should not even touch some of these medicines because the medicine can be absorbed through the skin and cause birth defects.
If an illness is causing you to lose hair, medicine to treat your illness may help. For example, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antifungal medicine if a fungus, such as ringworm, is causing hair loss. Hair will usually grow back in the bald areas.
If you have alopecia areata, the hair usually grows back naturally in 6 to 12 months. Your healthcare provider may try to speed up regrowth by injecting your scalp with steroids or by having you put minoxidil on the bald area. Alopecia areata can come back.
Hair transplant surgery involves moving sections of skin with hair from one part of the scalp to another. The results may last a few years or they may last the rest of your life.
How can I take care of myself?
If you have noticeable hair loss or a change in the condition of your scalp or other areas where hair normally grows, tell your healthcare provider. In the meantime, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of rest, exercise according to your healthcare providerâ€™s recommendation, and learn ways to manage stress. This can help you recover faster if an underlying illness is the cause of baldness.
Avoid irritating your scalp. For example, don’t use, elastic hair bands, blow dryers, hot combs, hair dye, or other chemicals on your hair.
Use a natural bristle brush or a smooth hair pick to prevent a lot of pulling when you comb your hair.
Avoid using nonprescription hair-growth products unless directed by your provider. These products have not been proven to work and may harm your skin and hair.
If you have lost a lot of hair from your scalp, you may choose to keep your hair short or shave your head. Or you may wear a hairpiece or a hat.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-06-05 Last reviewed: 2014-06-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.