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Beyond Genetics: Uncommon Causes of Hair Loss You Should Know About

By: Alejandro Buttari |
Beyond Genetics: Uncommon Causes of Hair Loss You Should Know About

Noticing thinning? Losing strands by the dozen?

Your genetics aren’t always the culprit.

While androgenetic alopecia, a genetically inherited form of hair loss, is common and affects about 80 million people in the U.S., it’s not the only reason you could be losing hair from your head. Rather, it can also be a side effect of a health problem.

 

When Hair Loss Is Not Genetic: 11 Factors That May Contribute to Hair Loss

Here are some common causes that may lead to loss of hair together with treatments you can try to curb the issue.


Anemia


People with iron-deficiency anemia have malabsorption — problems absorbing iron from food. Low iron levels have been associated with hair loss. But once you replenish your body’s supply of iron, whether through diet, supplements, or a combination of the two, you should be able to stop the shedding and regrow hair.


Autoimmune Diseases


Alopecia areata, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases can affect hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Spontaneous hair regrowth is possible, but patients also go through phases of hair loss and subsequent regrowth.

Unfortunately, there’s a chance that this type of hair loss may not be reversible as there is a 5% to 10% risk of it progressing to alopecia totalis or complete hair loss.


Childbirth


Due to higher levels of estrogen during pregnancy, most women experience a prolonged growth phase, resulting in less hair loss and a healthier, shinier mane.

Unfortunately, they don’t get to keep it.

Postpartum hair loss, which happens 1 to 6 months after childbirth affects 40% to 50% of women. It causes estrogen levels to fall, causing your strands to return to their normal hair growth cycle, so moms may notice hair thinning or bald patches.

This will happen gradually as not all hair follicles will move into the shedding phase at once, so you may notice excessive shedding for up to 18 months. However, once your estrogen levels return to normal, expect shedding to follow.


Fungal Infections


Ringworm, particularly ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis), can cause your scalp to flake or become scaly and your hair to fall out in patches, ultimately leading to bald spots. Don’t worry, though. It’s easily treatable with antifungal medication.


Hair Care


Using heat-based appliances like blow dryers, curling irons, and straighteners or chemical treatments like perms and hair dyes to style your hair can make your strands brittle, thereby damaging their integrity. This could cause a loss of sheen and breakage, leading to hair thinning and hair loss.

But that’s not all.

If you constantly wear your hair in tight hairstyles like ponytails and braids, forcefully pulling away hair from the scalp could lead to traction alopecia. This may lead to thinning hair and even bald spots if the hairstyle is not changed.


Prescription Medication


Drug-induced hair loss
is a very real thing.

Prescription drugs like blood thinners, antidepressants, and birth control pills may have made living with illnesses easier, but they often come with side effects, the most noticeable being hair thinning or hair loss. Some chemotherapy drugs may also play a part, but your hair should grow back once you stop the medication.


Word to the wise:
Always consult a doctor before making drastic changes to your treatment. Doctors can provide you with alternative drugs to curb the issue.


Physical Trauma


When your body is under physical stress, whether from a combination of surgery and general anesthesia, chronic illnesses, or severe accidents, it could alter the life cycle of your hair, resulting in hair thinning, a form of hair loss.

This type of hair loss, where you could lose 300 to 500 strands per day, is known as telogen effluvium. It is temporary, so your hair may grow back between 3 and 6 months with proper treatment.


Stress


When you’re under major stress, you experience what is called acute telogen effluvium. This is when a large number of strands (up to 70%) enter the resting phase, causing your hair to fall out excessively within three to six months from when the stress was experienced.

Loss of hair brought on by severe psychological stress is often temporary, so if you get your stress under control, you can expect your hair to grow back slowly.


Thyroid


Loss of hair is a common symptom of hyper and hypothyroidism. If your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, it could cause diffuse hair loss on the entire scalp due to an imbalance of hormones. Fortunately, regrowth is possible with the right treatment, although the results may not be as dramatic as some would like.

Other conditions that cause hormonal imbalance, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can also contribute to hair loss. However, if you take birth control pills, you may be able to control your hair growth better.


Trichotillomania


Trichotillomania
is a mental disorder that often affects teenagers. Because of the disorder, the patient has the impulse to pull out their own hair from their scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, and other areas, feeling instant relief or pleasure afterward. It leaves patchy bald spots all over and when done repeatedly, could result in noticeable hair loss.

Trichotillomania is a chronic condition that may improve with treatment such as habit reversal training, psychotherapy, or taking certain antidepressants.


Unhealthy Diets


Your body and hair need nutrients like vitamins and minerals to thrive. When they don’t get enough of them, whether through poor food intake or restrictive diets, they can limit your body’s ability to maintain hair structure and growth. This may result in hair loss that occurs in patches, hair thinning, or baldness.

To understand if an unhealthy diet could be behind your condition, speak to a doctor. They’ll conduct tests to find out precisely which nutrients you’re deficient in and prescribe supplements that can help you overcome the deficiency without posing health risks.

 

Wrapping Up


Most of the time, it’s possible to reverse hair loss caused by the reasons mentioned above. However, because you can’t know for sure what’s causing it, we suggest you see a medical practitioner. They’ll conduct tests to find the root cause and prescribe treatments to stop or slow hair loss.

This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to substitute for medical care or to prescribe treatment for any specific health condition. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.