Losing sleep over lost hair?
Hair loss, also called alopecia, is one of the most troubling conditions for women. There’s so much social importance placed on a long and luscious mane.
And alopcia can be really frustrating for your doctor, too.
Unfortunately, because hair loss can go on for a while before your really start to notice it, it can be hard for the doctor to get an accurate history. On top of this, there can often be more than one reason for a woman to lose her hair.
Even when a cause is found, though it can be a relief to have identified the culprit, not all forms of hair loss are reversible. And sometime, particularly when the hair loss is what we call “scarring alopecia,” is doesn’t always grow back.
One important distinction I try to clarify from my patients is whether they’re experiencing hair “shedding” or hair “thinning.” People who have shedding usually describe many hairs on the pillow, hairs all over their clothes, hairs in their food, hairs on the kitchen counter after preparing a meal…you get the idea. People who are experiencing thinning describe a wider hair part over time, a smaller ponytail, and hair that just appears “finer.”
When women come to see me with alopecia, it’s really important for me to get a good look at their scalp and hair.
I look for signs of rash or irritation on the scalp, as this can suggest an inflammatory alopecia, which is less common, but needs treatment so that scarring does not occur. I examine the hair’s overall density (how much hair is there?), relative density (for example, width of the part at different part s of the head), hair shaft abnormalities, and do a “hair pull test” where I see how easily hairs come out.
Often times, I can’t find a reason for the hair loss just from the history and physical exam, so I sometimes need to do blood tests or even a biopsy.
The most common cause of hair loss in women that I see in my clinic is Female Pattern Hair Loss, also called Androgenetic Alopecia. This is progressive, meaning it gets worse over time, and unfortunately, is related to genes and hormones. The good news is that there are treatment options, including medications you either apply directly to the scalp or take orally, and if that doesn’t work, even hair transplantation!
Hair loss in women is a frustrating and scary problem.
Whether it’s fixable or non-fixable, the first step is an evaluation – call your dermatologist today!