Ninety percent of hair loss cases in women can be attributed to hereditary thinning of hair. Thinning of hair in such cases starts in an early age (20-30) which can even lead to pattern baldness in women. However, hair loss in women is not always of that serious nature. Normally, hair loss in women can be reverted.
There are a number of reasons for such sudden but restorable hair loss. It is advisable that women in such cases see a hair restoration physician who is able to evaluate the causes for the hair loss. Young women having sudden hair loss may also need to do a hair analysis test for ascertaining nutritional deficiencies or for ruling out certain causes. The sudden hair loss occurring in women can be categorized as follows:
Drugs that cause hair loss
There are a large number of drugs that cause hair loss leading to a condition which is called telogen effluvium (TE). In this case, most hair in active growth phase is shifted into a resting (telogen), non-growth stage. Hairs that remain in a non growing stage for few months are finally shed in large numbers. Some times this condition can be confused with genetic female hair loss. However, normally TE is characterized by generalized thinning of the hair which does not follow any particular pattern. There is more thinning on top of the scalp than at the sides and back of the scalp. The hairs that are shed are typically telogen hairs which can be recognized by a small bulb of keratin on the root end. Drugs that are known to cause sudden hair loss are the following:
o Oral contraceptives
o Anti thyroid medication
o Blood pressure medication (such as beta-blockers or water pills)
o Blood thinning medication such as coumarin, heparin and propanolol
o Excessive vitamin A
o Cholesterol-lowering drugs
o Anti-histamines/ulcer drugs
o Anti-convulsant drugs
o Anti-thyroid drugs
o Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
o Arthritis drugs
o Tricyclic anti-depressant drugs
Telogen effluvium is not normally a permanent form of hair loss. Eventually, the hair follicles can recover. Recovery and return to normal hair density is very slow and can also take many months after the causative factor is removed.
Besides the telogen effluvium, there is another condition called as anagen effluvium which can be induced by certain drugs. Drugs that cause this kind of hair loss are cytoxic drugs that are given for cancer therapy. These drugs and other such stop the proliferation of cells which are responsible for hair growth. In contrast to telogen effluvium, anagen effluvium involves the shedding of the anagen hair which can be recognized by a tapered or feathered root end. This condition results in rapid hair loss, sometimes to extent of losing all the scalp hair. The hair loss can be very extensive, but often reversible when the medication is stopped.
Other than the drugs causing hair loss, there are a number of other factors responsible for sudden hair loss. These include the following:
o Diet deficiency – Lack of vitamins or minerals and particularly iron
o Crash dieting – Hair follicles in this case do not grow for the lack of nutrients.
o Hormones/Pregnancy/Childbirth – Abnormal hormone levels in women especially during pregnancy and child birth are known to result in hair loss due to lack of nutrients, as the embryo or feeding the baby causes a drain on supply
o Fever induced alopecia – High body temperature, in response to infectious chronic disease, stresses dividing cells of the hair follicle and they respond with reduced activity and stop growing.
o Ultra violet (UV) radiation – Low dose UV radiation may destroy some of the sensitive hair follicle cells and slow down growth activity
o Acute blood loss – Blood loss effectively starves the hair follicles of nutrients forcing them into reduced activity
o Hyperthyroidism or
Hypothyroidism – Under and over activity of thyroid hormones have a profound affect on hair follicle activity leading to hair loss.
o Extreme physical stress such as surgery – Surgery places extreme physical and emotional stress on the individual and can lead to telogen effluvium
o Emotional stress – Chronic emotional stress or sudden shock can adversely affects hair follicles although the mechanism by which it works is not known
o Severe illness – Severe or chronic illness alters the normal functioning of the human body and this may have an impact on hair follicles.
o Excessive washing, drying and perming – All these process cause disruption of hair cuticles at some places resulting in swelling and fraying at those places. It may ultimately lead to hair loss.