Male pattern baldness is familiar to many of us; men often develop a bald spot or a receding hairline. Female pattern baldness is less common, but it is the most common cause of hair loss in women.
Male pattern baldness refers to hair loss following a specific pattern. Usually, men lose hair at the hairline, which gradually recedes toward the back of the head. Alternatively, some men develop a bald spot on the crown of the head which grows larger. In both cases, men may keep hair at the sides of the face and the nape of the neck, or they may become entirely bald. Their hair loss is usually slow and symmetrical.
Female pattern baldness doesn’t follow a pattern of this kind. Women who lose their hair tend to find that the hair all over their head becomes thinner. It may start with a widening part and become sparse on the crown and the top of the head. Women don’t usually become entirely bald.
This type of hair loss can come with aging, and is more likely in women whose families have a history of either male or female pattern baldness. As many as half of all women may face this type of hair loss at some point in their lives.
Lifestyle causes of hair loss in women
It is possible to lose hair temporarily from medications, chronic or acute stress, or even from some specific hairstyles. Cornrows or tight ponytails can cause hair loss. Damage to hair from perming, relaxing, or bleaching the hair can also cause hair loss. These situations result in temporary hair loss.
Thinning hair can also be a sign of anemia. Iron-rich food or iron supplements can help. Deficiencies of protein, biotin, or zinc can also result in thin hair.
Some women get thinner hair when they are pregnant — or luxuriant hair when they are pregnant that thins after they have their baby.
One of the complicated aspects of hair loss is that hair grows, rests, and then falls. The cycle can last for months or even years. This means that a woman who notices hair loss may be seeing the results of something that took place months before.
Sometimes hair loss is the result of medical conditions. For example, thyroid disorders can lead to thinning hair. Either too much or too little of the thyroid hormone can cause hair loss. This usually takes place only in cases of long-term thyroid disorders. Because of the hair growth and resting cycle, it can happen that a thyroid disorder is diagnosed and treated — and only then does the patient notice hair loss. The hair loss was the result of the thyroid disorder, not of the treatment, but the hair growth cycle can make that confusing.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that develops when the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles. Hair grows from follicles. This type of hair loss could affect eyelashes or hair in other parts of the body as well as hair on the head.
Other autoimmune diseases can lead to hair loss, as can other medical causes including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), syphilis, and skin conditions such as psoriasis.
It can be confusing to learn thinning hair can be a sign of everything from tight ponytails to thyroid disease. Since hair loss can result from such a wide range of conditions, though it’s important to see your doctor if you notice sudden hair loss. Once you identify and solve the underlying problem, hair will often regrow.