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Recently I’ve been seeing more and more women experiencing hair loss at a younger age. It is a common concern seen in primary practice, and is estimated to affect 30% of adult women. Hair loss can be particularly distressing and impact a woman’s self-esteem and overall well-being. A thorough work up is crucial in order to identify the cause and treat hair loss effectively.

The list of causes for hair loss in women is varied. The most common type of hair loss, called “female pattern hair loss,” can be seen in women with PCOS and in menopause as a result of excess androgen hormones. After pregnancy is another time that women notice increased hair thinning and shedding. This period peaks 3-6 months after birth, and results from the sudden drop in hormones. Emotional and physiological stressors in the past 6 months prior to hair loss (including crash diets or rapid weight loss), poor nutrient absorption (from bowel disorders, food sensitivities, low stomach acid, etc.), undiagnosed thyroid dysfunction, and certain medications may also be triggers.

In all cases, I believe it is important to run blood tests looking at iron stores, thyroid function and sex hormones to help identify contributing factors. The pattern of hair loss also provides information to determine the cause. For example, hair loss from the crown of the head can be associated with high testosterone levels, while generalized hair loss all over the head may be caused by nutritional deficiencies.

Once you identify the cause of hair loss, patience is required during the regrowth period. Hair growth is a slow process, and it may take up to six months before treatment effects become noticeable. However, supporting a woman’s overall health through nutrition, balancing blood sugar, and managing stress often provides a strong foundation for success!

References:

October 1, 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.clinicaladvisor.com/features/the-most-common-causes-of-hair-loss-among-women/article/314068/

Moeinvaziri M, Mansoori P, Holakooee K, Safaee N, Abbasi A. Iron status in diffuse telogen hair loss among women. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat. 2009;17(4):279-84.

Shapiro J, Otberg N, Hordinsky M. Evaluation and diagnosis of hair loss. UpToDate. Last updated Nov 23, 2015.

Shillington S. Treating Female Pattern Hair Loss. NDNR. December 22, 2012. Retrieved from: http://ndnr.com/womens-health/treating-female-pattern-hair-loss/

Sinclair R, Patel M, Dawson TL, Yazdabadi A, Yip L, Perez A, Rufaut NW. Hair loss in women: medical and cosmetic approaches to increase scalp hair fullness. Br J Dermatol. 2011;Dec 165(3):12-8.