Causes of Hair Dropping

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Information on Causes of Hair Dropping

Normally, about 90% of our scalp hairs are growing and 10% are resting.  The resting hairs stay in place for several months, but when a new hair is formed and begins its own growth cycle, the old one is pushed up and out.  We normally lose 50 - 100 scalp hairs per day as old hairs are shed to make room for new ones.


Many events can cause a definite change in the hair cycle.  A temporary increase in the rate of shedding may occur 3 - 4 months after childbirth, or following a high fever, major illness, major surgical procedure, blood loss, or severe emotional stress.  It has also been seen recently in association with rapid weight-loss diets involving severe restriction of calories (less than 800 per day) or protein.  In these situations, hair will literally come out by the handful, but it always regrows some months later.  Various drugs can also cause hair shedding.  In other instances, hair loss is not increased but replacement is inadequate.  This can occur as a result of thyroid disease, cancer, iron deficiency, and some cases of diabetes.


So-called "male-pattern" hair thinning, the all-too-familiar receding hairline seen earliest at the temples and over the top of the scalp, is very common in men.  It may also occur in women, in whom it normally appears 15 - 20 years later than in their male relatives.  The age of onset, degree of thinning, and ultimate hair pattern are determined by male hormone (androgen) stimulation and by heredity.  In other words, the eventual development of male-pattern thinning is a normal and inevitable response to the same stimuli (androgen) which promote normal sexual development.  Although seborrhea (oilness) and dandruff are sometimes associated with this type of hair loss, treating these conditions does not influence the regrowth of hair.


In women, genetic hair thinning is more difficult to diagnose with certainty at an early age, but it seems to be quite common.  The hair loss is more diffuse and less patterned.  If one can exclude other common causes of hair loss, if there is a family history of the condition, and if the onset is gradual and not associated with irregular menstrual periods or excessive growth of hair elsewhere on the body (hirsutism), it is likely that this hair loss is a normal event.


Familial (or genetic) hair thinning has never been shown to be helped by local applications or injections, by radiation, or by any other physical treatment in either sex.  There are no foods or vitamins which will specifically help hair growth, though food health and nutrition are generally important.


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