We say this a lot, but our hair really is a window into our overall health. Indeed, our hair's condition can tell us so much about what is going on inside the body. When a body function or process is disrupted or compromised, we can have hair thinning.
Hair is not crucial for our survival like it was for our human ancestors, who needed hair for warmth. Thus, when our body needs to pull energy toward fighting an illness, fewer nutrients and resources are available for growing and maintaining healthy hair. Let's take a look at some of the most common illnesses that can cause hair thinning.
Our DNA plays a significant role in determining hair growth, texture, color, length, thickness, and shedding. The most common cause of hair thinning is androgenic alopecia, a genetic condition that causes hair loss in both men and women.
Also called male and female-pattern baldness, androgenic alopecia is not necessarily an illness and we cannot cure it. However, it is manageable with the right hair care products, particularly ones that contain Nanoxidil 5% and nutritional support. In severe cases, people may need to seek out surgical hair transplants if they do not wish to be bald. Patients of hair transplants also find the aforementioned products to be quite effective at maintain their transplant and keeping it healthy, which is just as important as getting the transplant.
Hair is an extension of our integumentary system, or skin. Therefore, skin disorders can have a big impact on our hair health. Skin conditions that can cause hair thinning include:
Lichen planus - An inappropriate response of your immune system causes swelling and irritation on your skin, hair, and nails. On the skin, lichen planus looks like purple bumps that can become itchy. Hair loss is a common symptom of this condition. Generally, lichen planus resolves on its own, but it can cause issues when it affects mucous membranes like your mouth.
Tinea capitus - Commonly called ringworm, this fungal condition often starts with a small pimple and grows in size. When it happens on your scalp, the fungus can enter your hair follicles, causing them to break off and form bald patches. Ringworm can be quite itchy, but an antifungal medication can effectively treat this conditon.
Seborrheic dermatitis - This common skin disorder involves flaking on the scalp, likely due to an over-accumulation of oil. Malassezia, a fungus that can grow on the scalp, may also affect the oil glands, which can worsen flaking. Due to frequent itching and inflammation, you can notice hair thinning around infected areas.
Shampoos for Skin Disorders On the Scalp
Alopecia areata is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes large bald spots to occur. In this condition, the immune system attacks your hair follicles, resulting in large circular patches that can overlap. Alopecia areata may be due to severe stress.
Along with alopecia areata, other autoimmune disorders can cause hair thinning. For example, systemic erythematous lupus, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and celiac disease can contribute to hair loss. Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system attacks healthy cells, causing inflammation of certain tissues. When you have high levels of inflammation, it can cause major disturbances in other body systems, including your hair and skin.
Hormones are chemical messengers that send information between cells to help them communicate fluidly. When your hormones are off-balance, it can have several consequences.
Hypothyroidism is a prevalent disorder where the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone is responsible for driving metabolic processes, such as energy and growth. Therefore, people with this condition often struggle with fatigue, weight gain, and a general slowing of their metabolism. One of the more common symptoms of untreated hypothyroidism is hair thinning.
There are natural hormonal changes unrelated to illness that can affect hair thickness as well. For example, women after childbirth often experience significant shedding due to a major shift in their female sex hormones. Similarly, women in menopause can also experience hair thinning, although unlike postpartum women, women in menopause generally do not grow their hair back.
The stress response is a vital mechanism for human beings. It protects us from danger and helps up respond quickly in life-threatening situations. However, we have become more prone to chronic stress levels in recent decades, which has led to some significant health concerns for our population.
Infections, surgery, trauma, loss of loved ones, life changes, worry, and disease can all increase cortisol (the stress hormone) in our bodies. When our cortisol levels are exceptionally high, it draws blood flow and nutrients away from our hair follicles and directs them to other tissues. Thus, we can experience hair thinning in the presence of chronic stress or even in acute stress, such as fighting an infection or recovering from surgery.
Fortunately, most people can recoup their hair losses once they can decrease their stress levels. People with hair loss after a stressful event, like the loss of a loved one, can expect their hair to fall out about 3 months after the stressful event, followed by hair re-growth about 6 months after their loss. This form of hair thinning is called telogen effluvium.
Treatments For Stress-Related Hair Loss
Mental Health Concerns
We often focus on the physical illnesses and circumstances that can affect hair thickness, but the mind also plays a pivotal role in our hair health. People with depression and anxiety may experience hair thinning. Also, people with eating disorders can develop hair thinning due to nutrient deficiencies. Additionally, certain tic behaviors associated with some psychiatric disorders can also lead to hair thinning and eventual balding.
Medication used to treat disorders and diseases can indirectly affect your hair. One of the most well-known treatments that has a side effect of hair loss is cancer therapy. Medications used to treat cancer target rapidly growing cells in your body and try to halt them. Unfortunately, hair follicles contain some of the most rapidly dividing cells in the body, making them a target for cancer therapies.
Other medications that can cause hair loss include drugs that treat:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Acne medication containing retinoids
- Antibiotics and antifungals
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
- Hormonal imbalance (including hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills)
What Should I Do If I Think I Have an Illness Causing Hair Thinning?
If you are struggling with hair thinning and think you may have an illness, your top priority should be to meet with your doctor and have a complete health exam. While our hair plays a significant role in our self-perception and identity, our overall health and wellbeing matter more.
Fortunately, treating any underlying illnesses often helps restore your hair. However, if you are being treated for a health condition and still have hair loss, it is helpful to use hair re-growth systems like SPECTRAL.DNC-N and the REVITA shampoo/conditioner line to get a jumpstart on restoring your hair.