What Causes Excessive Hair Loss?

Active Senior Living, Resources for Seniors
From a traumatic life event to the way you style your hair, there are many causes of excessive hair loss. Here's what to do.

From a traumatic life event to the way you style your hair, there are many causes of excessive hair loss. Here’s what to do.

It’s normal to shed hair every day, however some people experience excessive (more than normal) hair loss. So what causes this? And when should you consult a doctor for it?

Many conditions and diseases can result in hair loss. So can improper hair care. The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary thinning or baldness. While daily shedding is normal, people who notice their hair shedding in large amounts after combing or brushing, and those whose hair becomes thinner or falls out, should consult a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment, reports the American Academy of Dermatology.

Common Causes of Excessive Hair Loss, according to SeniorHealth365.org:

Medicine

Some drugs such as gout medication, hormone pills, antidepressants, or anticoagulants (also known as blood thinners) can cause thinning in the hair. This is usually due to the hair follicles being negatively impacted by these medicines, which disrupts their growth cycle. If medicine is the likely cause of hair loss, your physician should be contacted to try to lower dosage or change to a different medication.

Health

In senior people, there are common health conditions that can be directly related to hair loss. Such problems include thyroid dysfunction, any infections in the scalp or skin, or alopecia areata (autoimmune disease which results in hair loss). Iron deficiency is another factor that can lead to baldness. As studies have shown, individuals with a poor diet that is deficient of iron are more likely to have hair loss. These problems can be diagnosed and treated for by a doctor. After treatment, your hair loss will be reduced and with return to its normal growth cycle over a period of time.

Hormones

The changing of hormones are we age is likely the most common cause of hair loss in elderly people. Sex hormones typically cause male or female pattern baldness. Hormone imbalances caused by menopause are another cause of hair loss. Consult a doctor for treatment, but know that these causes are often inevitable and something everyone will have to resolve at some point in their life.

Certain Hairstyles

There are also some various hairstyles that can lead to hair loss. Some include pig tails or cornrows that involve tight hair rollers, which can cause “traction alopecia”, where your scalp will scar due to the pulling. If the pulling on your hair is stopped before the scarring occurs, the hair loss won’t be permanent.

In addition, hair loss can also result from:

Radiation therapy to the head. The hair may not grow back the same as it was before.

A trigger event. Many people experience a general thinning of hair several months after a physical or emotional shock. This type of hair loss is temporary. Examples of trigger events include sudden or excessive weight loss, a high fever, surgery, or a death in the family.

A number of factors can increase your risk of hair loss, including:

  • Family history
  • Age
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and lupus
  • Stress

Hair loss can appear in many different ways, depending on what’s causing it. It can come on suddenly or gradually and affect just your scalp or your whole body. Some types of hair loss are temporary, and others are permanent.

Signs and symptoms of hair loss, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

  • Gradual thinning on top of head. This is the most common type of hair loss, affecting both men and women as they age. In men, hair often begins to recede from the forehead in a line that resembles the letter M. Women typically retain the hairline on the forehead but have a broadening of the part in their hair.
  • Circular or patchy bald spots .Some people experience smooth, coin-sized bald spots. This type of hair loss usually affects just the scalp, but it sometimes also occurs in beards or eyebrows. In some cases, your skin may become itchy or painful before the hair falls out.
  • Sudden loosening of hair. A physical or emotional shock can cause hair to loosen. Handfuls of hair may come out when combing or washing your hair or even after gentle tugging. This type of hair loss usually causes overall hair thinning and not bald patches.
  • Full-body hair loss.Some conditions and medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer, can result in the loss of hair all over your body. The hair usually grows back.
  • Patches of scaling that spread over the scalp. This is a sign of ringworm. It may be accompanied by broken hair, redness, swelling and, at times, oozing.

 

How is hair loss diagnosed?

If you suspect that you may have excessive hair loss, talk to your doctor, suggests FamilyDoctor.org. He or she will probably ask you some questions about your diet, any medicines you’re taking, and whether you’ve had a recent illness, and how you take care of your hair. If you’re a woman, your doctor may ask questions about your menstrual cycle, pregnancies, and menopause. Your doctor may want to do a physical exam to look for other causes of hair loss. Finally, your doctor may order blood tests or a biopsy.

What you can do

  • List key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that you’re taking.
  • List questions to ask your doctor.