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Other Causes

While male and female pattern hair loss is the most common forms experienced worldwide, hair loss can be caused by a number of other factors often ignored by inexperienced doctors. 

Here we will focus on other less commonly recognized causes of hair loss and elaborate their symptoms and diagnosis.

These are some of the other common causes of hair loss often ignored:

 

hair loss in women is very common and can be treated with a hair transplant surgery.

Telogen Effluvium

 

This temporary form of hair loss often affecting the top of the scalp, usually occurs due to stress, a shock or a traumatic event where large amounts of hair falls out. This is often a temporary diffuse form of hair loss as the shed follicles would usually grow back.

Telogen Effluvium is often more common in women and is caused by disturbances in the hair cycle where follicle spends more time in the Telogen phase (resting phase). This leads to an increase in the amount of hair shedding and a more visible scalp. Several factors can cause disturbances in the hair cycle and lead to Telogen Effluvium. These factors include:

Stress: often prolonged stress can cause temporary hair loss in as soon as 3 months after an stressful event. Stress can be considered as an autoimmune disorder affecting hair follicles and lead to chronic inflammation and increased shedding. Managing stress through higher quality sleep, improved diet and stress lowering therapies such as meditation can have a positive impact on overall health as well as hair shedding disorders.  

hair loss in women is very common and can be treated with a hair transplant surgery.

Poor Nutrition: while nutrient deficiencies are rare in developed countries, they might still occur. Several key nutrients are essential for hair growth which includes proteins, Iron, B vitamins, Zinc and etc. A diet rich in whole unprocessed plant foods, legumes, nuts and seeds and dark leafy greens should address these potential shortcomings.

Abrupt Weight Loss: extreme caloric restriction can lead stress and hair loss.

Pregnancy: some women might experience hair loss after a pregnancy due to changes in estrogen levels. While this is temporary and reversible, it could be a significant cause of physiological stress for many women.

Medications: certain medications can cause hair loss as a side effect. If you are currently taking any medications, carefully read the instructions about the possible side effects. 

Once the underlying cause of Telogen Effluvium is established, simple steps can be taken to address the cause and regrowth should occur within 3 to 6 months.

Anagen Effluvium

 

Anagen Effluvium occurs when large amounts of follicles in their growth phase (Anagen) fall out. This form of hair loss is not restricted to scalp as other parts of the body including eyebrows and eye lashes can be affected as well.

Anagen Effluvium is often a side effect of chemotherapy and radiation. It may also be caused by some fungal infections. This disorder is often reversible once the underlying cause is dealt with.

Fungal Infections

 

Certain fungal infections such as ring worms (Tinea Capitis) can cause temporary hair loss resembling a small bald patch that can increase in size. This bald patch is often accompanied by redness, itching and blisters with the red ring like patch.

Although ring worm infections in developed countries are extremely rare, many travelers to sub-tropical regions do get infected. If you notice a red ring patch followed by hair shedding and irritation, consult a dermatologist immediately.  

Hypothyroidism

Thyroid is a vital gland located in the neck responsible for producing metabolic hormones. Thyroid produced hormones impact the entire body in complicated ways many of which still being researched. Therefore, a malfunctioning thyroid will influence the entire body including hair follicles.

An underactive thyroid will cause a deficiency in thyroid related hormones in the hair follicle and leads to hair loss.

Relation to Hair Loss

An underactive thyroid will cause a deficiency in thyroid related hormones in the hair follicle and other related tissues, leading to a damaged hair cycle and therefore shedding. It presents as a diffuse type shedding where the patient will experience hair loss across the scalp in contrast to a pattern hair loss. This is an important distinction since thyroid related hair loss is often misdiagnosed as pattern hair loss and mistreated. 

 

Symptoms

Thyroid hormones impact the entire body. An underactive thyroid will lead to fatigue, irritability, low body temperature, poor quality skin and as expected, hair thinning and diffuse hair loss.

 

Causes

There are a diverse group of causes that can lead to a malfunctioning thyroid. Some of the culprits include:

Certain Nutrient Imbalances: certain nutrients are necessary for a healthy thyroid function. These nutrients include Iodine, Magnesium, Vitamin D, Selenium, Zinc, Copper and Iron. An excess or deficiency of these nutrients are linked to thyroid malfunction and therefore should be considered as a possible cause.

Gut Problems: certain gut problems such as a leaky gut, unbalanced gut microbiome, SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), Celiac disease and etc. can lead to issues such as gut inflammation, auto immunity as well as thyroid problems.

Obesity: obesity is a known risk factor for hypothyroidism as people with obesity have a higher risk of autoimmune disorders as well as mild thyroid failure.

Dysfunctions of the Pituitary Gland: pituitary gland is a small gland located at the base of the brain, responsible for many of the body’s hormones. Among these hormones are the thyroid related hormones as well. Therefore a dysfunctioning pituitary gland can lead to thyroid problems. Pituitary gland disorders can be caused by a variety of factors such as stress, insulin resistance, infection, trauma and etc.

Autoimmune Disorder: certain autoimmune conditions can lead to a malfunctioning thyroid as the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland tissues.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS can also lead to thyroid malfunctioning and hair loss. To learn more about PCOS, read our thorough review on this condition.  

malfunctioning thyroid can lead to hair loss which can be identified thyroid test.

Treatments

If you are suffering from diffuse hair loss along with the other symptoms mentioned, you might be having a malfunctioning thyroid gland. Consult an expert and receive an accurate diagnosis of your condition. Several tests are available to properly identify the cause of the thyroid dysfunction. These include a full thyroid panel test, nutrient level tests, HPA axis test and etc. if the cause of the thyroid malfunction is correctly diagnosed, addressing the problem in most cases will lead to recovery of the thyroid function and hair loss.

Hyperparathyroidism

Parathyroid glands are four glands located right next to the thyroid, responsible for regulating blood and bone calcium levels and many other key bodily functions. Parathyroid glands regulate the body’s calcium levels by releasing a hormone called parathyroid hormone (PTH).

The most common form of hyperparathyroidism (also known as primary hyperparathyroidism) is caused by small and often benign tumors growing in one or more of the parathyroid glands. These tumors cause the parathyroid gland to become over active leading to a very high blood calcium levels. To counteract this, the body lowers serum vitamin D level as a protective measure since high blood calcium level in the presence of vitamin D leads to arterial calcification and serious health problems. Primary hyperparathyroidism occurs at a rate of about 1% in the population and it often affects women over 50 (affecting women 2 – 3 times more then men).

A less common form of hyperparathyroidism (also known as secondary hyperparathyroidism) is seen in patients with kidney failure or in populations with severe calcium and vitamin D deficiency. Since severe deficiencies are extremely rare in developed nations, the overwhelming cause of hyperparathyroidism in developed countries is the primary hyperparathyroidism.   

hyperparathyroidism can lead to diffuse hair loss hair loss especially in the front of the scalp.

Relation to Hair Loss

While the exact relation between hyperparathyroidism to hair loss is still being studied, diffuse hair loss (especially in the front of the scalp) is one of the main symptoms of this disease. It is also proven that high PTH levels are associated with hair shedding disorders.

 

Symptoms

Primary hyperparathyroidism is a disease with serious long term consequences. The main diagnostic symptoms are high blood calcium levels, low serum vitamin D level as well as abnormal PTH levels.

Other common symptoms include: chronic fatigue, Osteoporosis and Osteopenia, bone pain (particularly in hands and feet), kidney stones, kidney disease, hair loss and etc.

Blood calcium levels are the main mode of diagnostics since patients with abnormally high calcium levels almost definitely have hyperparathyroidism. 

A low serum Vitamin D level is another sign of this condition. Up to 96% of patients with primary hyperparathyroidism have low vitamin D levels. Often inexperienced endocrinologists will misdiagnose this low Vitamin D level as a deficiency and prescribe Vitamin D supplements to their patients. Not only this supplementation will not lower the calcium level, but can also cause serious disease risk as the body initially lowered the Vitamin D level intentionally to counter the excess calcium.

Therefore it is crucial to check serum Vitamin D levels along with calcium and PTH levels to properly diagnose hyperparathyroidism.

Treatment

Fortunately, following a correct diagnosis of hyperparathyroidism, the tumor can be removed with surgery and the symptoms will disappear following the treatment. Along with this, patients often regrow their lost hair within a year after the treatment making the hyperparathyroidism hair loss reversible.

Traction Alopecia

Traction Alopecia is a form of hair loss caused when the hair follicles are pulled in a direction continuously over time. This type of hair loss is associated with certain hair styling behaviors which causes continuous pulling of hairs such as ponytails, dreadlocks, braids etc. Other causes include hair extensions and other hair accessories that are worn daily that can cause continuous tension on the hair roots.

constant pulling of hairs caused by certain hair styles can lead to hair loss called traction alopecia.

A continuous pulling of hairs can damage the follicles and lead to a hair loss that presents as a receding hairline around the forehead and temples, widening of hair parting region and redness and itching on the scalp. This form of hair loss is more common among ballet dancers and sports professionals who often use tight hair styles for extended periods of time.

Changing the hair style and avoiding hair treatment chemicals including relaxers can help to treat the condition. The use of minoxidil and anti-inflammatory treatments can have benefits as well.

Traction Alopecia is reversible in early stages. Once the source of the tension is relieved (changes in hair styles), this condition should resolve. However if there is substantial damage, the hair may not grow back. Patients in these stages can consider hair transplant as an option.

Medications

Certain types of medications can cause hair loss as a side effect. These may include:

 

  • Some blood thinners such as Warfarin
  • Certain acne treatment medications
  • Some anti-depressants such as Zoloft and Prozac
  • Beta-blockers
  • Some cholesterol lowering drugs like Lopid
  • Birth control pills and other forms of birth control medications

If you are currently taking any medications and experiencing hair loss, make sure to read the medication label and check for possible side effects. Consult your doctor to see if you might be able to reduce the dosage or change the medication if your hair loss is caused by it.

If you are currently taking birth control medications and experiencing hair loss, consult your doctor to see if changing your current medication to a lower androgen index birth control might help. Some forms of birth control medications can accelerate the rate of pattern hair loss (AGA) or lead to temporary shedding (similar to that experienced after pregnancy) due to their impact on hormone levels as well as nutrient levels. This shedding can begin while being on the medication or sometimes after quitting. Although most woman will not experience this side effect, women taking these medications should take caution and consult their doctor if necessary to change the medication.

Iron Imbalance

Iron is an essential nutrient playing a key role in many bodily functions ranging from red blood cell production to metabolism and many more. A deficiency in iron will lead to symptomatic disease such as weakness and fatigue as well as hair loss, while having higher than recommended levels can also cause chronic oxidative stress, increase risk of certain cancers as well as chronic fatigue and hair loss. This is why having optimal levels is essential not just for hair health but for overall health.    

Women are more likely to be iron deficient while iron surplus is more common in men. This is due to the fact that women lose iron every month through menstruation. Iron deficiency also tends to be common in athletes and active individuals as intense exercise requires a more supply of iron.

An iron deficiency is linked to male and female pattern hair loss as well as Telogen Effluvium. It is clear that iron plays a role in blood supply to the hair follicle and a deficiency in iron can accelerate rate of hair loss in patients. Whereas an iron overload can cause an imbalance in body’s hormone levels leading to different types of hair loss.   

Since iron is a delicate nutrient, supplementing with iron is not recommended unless supervised by a doctor. If you are suffering from hair loss, it may be a good idea to check your iron levels and adjust your diet. You can add healthy plants foods rich in iron such as legumes and dark leafy greens to increase your levels if needed. On the hand you can reduce your meat consumption in order to lower your iron levels if they are high.

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