Hair is an important part of our identity. Because of its significance, hair loss can be very traumatic for both men and women. Millions of women in the United States suffer from androgenetic alopecia, or female pattern hair loss. However, all is not hopeless for women who wish to confront their hair loss and take action to safely regain control of their appearance and self-esteem.
Hair grows in phases from its follicle (the skin surrounding the hair root) at an average rate of about ½ inch per month. Approximately 90% of the hair on your scalp is growing at any one time and is in a phase that lasts 2-6 years. The other 10% is in a resting phase, which lasts 2-3 months. After the resting phase, the hair strand falls out and a new one begins to grow. As a result, you lose roughly 100 hairs on any given day.
Androgenic alopecia is the most common cause of excessive hair loss in both women and men. It occurs when hair falls out, but new hair does not grow in its place. The cause is not well understood, but it is associated with genetics from either your mother's or father's side of the family, aging, and levels of androgens. Androgens are homones generally associated with secondary sex characteristics in men.
The pattern of hair loss in women is different from the typical receding hairline and crown loss seen in men. In women, there is usually thinning of hair over the entire head or slight hair loss at the crown or hairline. It rarely progresses to total or near baldness.
Hair loss can occur for other reasons as well, including:
There is no known way to prevent female pattern hair loss, but call your doctor if you think you may be balding. There may be a treatable medical cause for your hair loss, or it may be a matter of changing some of the medications you currently take. Your doctor can also give you medications to help alleviate symptoms, such as itching or irritated skin. You should not feel anxious, embarrassed, or unattractive because of hair loss.
The hair loss of female pattern hair loss is permanent. However, it is of cosmetic importance only and does not indicate a medical disorder. So, if you are comfortable with your appearance, no treatment is required. If you want to treat the condition, keep in mind that your insurance will most likely not cover medications or procedures for cosmetic purposes, but may if your hair loss is due to a disease.
Examples of treatment options include:
Alopecia Areata Foundation
American Hair Loss Association
Androgenetic alopecia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 8, 2013. Accessed January 30, 2014.
Hair loss. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/e---h/hair-loss. Accessed January 30, 2014.
Hair loss. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/hair-loss.html. Updated December 2010. Accessed January 30, 2014.
Minoxidil (topical). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 18, 2013. Accessed January 30, 2014.
Price VH. Treatment of hair loss. N Engl J Med. 1999; 341:964-973.
Trost LB, Bergfeld WF, Calogeras E. The diagnosis and treatment of iron deficiency and its potential relationship to hair loss. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006; 54:824.
Women's hair loss. American American Hair Loss Council website. Available at: http://www.americanhairloss.org/women_hair_loss. Accessed January 30, 2014.
Last reviewed January 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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