10 Top Causes of Hair Loss

For both women and men, hair loss can drive us to tears. Although the physical symptoms can range from serious to benign, the cosmetic problem is bound to leave us devastated.


So what can cause hair to suddenly happen?

Top 10 Causes of Hair Loss

Thyroid Disorder: The thyroid gland, which sits in the middle of the neck, regulates our metabolism and more. So when it shuts down and produces less thyroid hormone, it also shuts down everything else. This causes us and our bodies to slow down. We can become fatigued and depressed, our gut can slow down causing constipation, our skin can dry, and our hair can become brittle and/or fall out.

Traction: Believe it or not, tension on the hair shafts, from tight pony tails or braids can strain our hair follicles and cause hair loss. It seems too easy to be true. But nevertheless, if you tend to wear your hair up, let it loose for a change.

Stress: We cannot blame stress for every little medical problem. However, this is one is real.  Experiencing a traumatic stressful event can cause hair loss 3-6 months down the line. However, if it is truly from stress, it is reversible. Therefore, the hair that is lost will eventually regrow once the stressor is removed.

Medications: Chemotherapy, anticonvulsants, hormones, and lithium are some of the common hair loss culprits. As are some other antihypertensive and cardiac drugs, such as amiodarone (an antiarrhythmic), captopril, or propranolol (anti-hypertensives), and cholesterol lowering drugs.

Chronic Iron Deficiency: Menstruating women compromise the greatest risk for iron deficiency, which is manifested by anemia. A simple blood test can detect this one. Strict vegetarians who seriously lack iron in their diet can also become anemic. And we always worry about those over the age of 50 who lose microscopic but chronic amounts of blood in their stool.

Autoimmune Disorders:  Lupus is a prime example of an autoimmune disorder that can wreak havoc on the scalp. Autoimmune disorders are those in which the body produces specific proteins that attack various body components, such as the joints in Rheumatoid Arthritis, the pancreas in Type I Diabetes, and the thyroid in Graves Disease. People with some autoimmune disorders can also erroneously produce proteins that attack the hair follicles, thereby causing alopecia. These disorders, however, tend to cause distinct patches of hair loss, rather than diffuse all-over loss.

Tinea Capitis: More common in children, fungal infections can wreak havoc on the scalp, just as they can elsewhere on the skin (just like the jock itch in the groin, diaper rash in babies, athlete’s foot in the feet, etc.).  Like autoimmune disorders, they also tend to cause distinct patches of hair loss.

PCOS:  A topic I’ve visited more than once prior, this is a hormonal imbalance that ultimately causes an increase in testosterone levels in women. And this elevation, besides sending menstrual cycles out of whack, causing acne,and growing hair where it doesn’t typicaly belong, it also tends to cause diminished hair grown on the scalp, while increase hair growth elsewhere that hair is less often flourishing in women.

Pregnancy:  Women often report an increase in scalp hair growth during pregnancy. But after birth is a difference story. The hair can shed and then some. However, most women do tend to return back to their pre-pregnancy hair status.

Genetics: By far the most common cause of hair loss, in both women and men, is genetics. It’s termed “alopecia androgenetica.” The pattern of hair loss is often diffuse; there are no distinct patches. Look at your mother, father, or siblings to determine your family’s inherited pattern of hair growth and loss. Unfortunately, how much hair you lose largely depends on your genetics.

There are certainly other less common causes of hair loss, such as syphilis (a sexually transmitted infection), trichotillomania (a psychiatric etiology), etc. that must be considered. But by far the top causes stated are the ones that doctors tend to consider when evaluating a patient with alopecia.

A visit to your primary care physician is really enough to rule many of them out: another benefit to having a strong relationship with your primary care doctor.

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.