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What Causes Hair Loss?

Learn why women lose their hair, what you can do to re-grow yours, and when it might be time to see your doctor.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD

 

How Can You Treat Hair Loss?

I told Andrea that her sudden hair loss is likely from the emotional trauma and stress she experienced, and that it will likely improve with time. But as I told her, there are certain treatment options you can use to treat hair loss:

  • Multivitamins: Take a prenatal vitamin every day (even if you are not trying to get pregnant) will ensure that you are getting the right amount of nutrients and vitamins necessary for good hair and nail growth.

  • Minoxidil: A medication initially used to treat high blood pressure was discovered to have an interesting side effect—it caused hair growth. Now this drug, called Monoxidil, commonly known as Rogaine, is formulated and marketed specifically to regrow hair. Minoxidil is an over the counter medication and it must be applied to the scalp twice daily. It does work, and works really great for many people, but it typically takes about three months to start noticing the difference. There is a traditional “female” 2% dose and “male” 5% dose. However, if your hair loss is significant, women can safely use the 5% “male” dosing. Most common side effect?  Some women report a little bit of hair growth on the face (don’t worry, this is reversible once you stop using the product). And if you do stop the treatment, hair loss will likely return. You can get this at any drug store or pharmacy on your own without a prescription from a doctor!

  • Steroid injections or creams: If your hair loss is in a distinct pattern and the earlier mentioned treatments don’t work, see your personal doctor or a dermatologist for possible injections of steroids, or prescription steroid creams to apply to the scalp.

  • Spironolactone: Another medication originally developed to treat high blood pressure, Spironolactone is now used to treat some women with hair loss secondary to PCOS. If taken, women must use a reliable method of birth control, as it may cause congenital abnormalities in fetuses.  

  • Retin-A: There are a few studies that suggest using good ole Retin-A as an adjunct to Minoxidil can help treat those with a distinct hair loss patch (As I mentioned in my article, “4 Common Skin Problems: How to Deal,” (Retin-A is also used to treat acne and improve wrinkles).

What About Propecia?

You may have seen advertisements for the hair loss drug, Propecia, but unfortunately, this oral medication is only used to treat men with hair loss, mostly because it can cause abnormal genitalia in the male fetuses of women who get pregnant while taking it.

When Should You See Your Doctor About Hair Loss?

Hair loss can be treated over the counter, but there are certain times when you should definitely see your doctor:

  • If the over-the-counter methods don’ t work

  • If your hair loss is not just diffuse, but in a distinct circular or oval pattern

  • If your hair loss seems significant, or is getting worse with time

  • If it is caused by any new medications you may have started

  • If you experience any problems with your periods, or also suffer from acne

  • If you have any signs of thyroid disorders, such as constipation, fatigue, depression, and weight gain

I saw Andrea about four months later, and even though she declined the various treatments of alopecia, she had already started to regain some of her hair loss. She is also dating again and is involved in a new romantic relationship which she is excited about—go Andrea!

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Resources

Check out the following websites for more info on hair loss:

  1. American Hair Loss Council: www.ahlc.org

  2. American Academy of Dermatology: www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/common_hairloss.htm

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

Balding Man image courtesy of Shutterstock

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About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD
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