Nearly every other person in the world experiences hair loss due to a variety of reasons. While genetic causes and inherited hair loss conditions such as androgenic alopecia are well-known, hair loss resulting from emotional disturbances, side effects of medicines, and auto-immune diseases are also well-recorded. Hair loss, while a fairly straightforward symptom, can be caused due to a variety of factors. This sometimes makes it necessary for patients to undergo a blood test for hair loss, so their doctor can clearly determine what’s behind their troubled tresses.
Despite some types of hair loss not even requiring formal medical intervention, the symptom can get just about anyone worked up and worried. If you’re wondering about how to strengthen hair and do it naturally, several methods and lifestyle changes can be adopted alongside formal medical therapy. To help you better understand hair loss, we’ve put together some essential information about the subject so you can know what to expect before visiting a dermatologist for hair loss. From causes, symptoms, and the various treatment options, we also help you understand blood tests for hair loss and the long-term outlook!
The Causes of Hair Loss
- Hair loss can be caused by a variety of factors in the body. However, it is important to note that humans on average lose up to 100 strands of hair every day.
- This normal physiological loss of hair is barely noticed because new strands of hair regrow and replace the lost hair.
- Although, in cases of hair loss, the number of strands lost is more than the number of replacement strands growing back.
- Some of the prominent causes of hair loss include:
- People with a family history of hair loss and baldness on either their father’s or mother’s side of the family are at a higher risk of experiencing hair loss in their lives.
- This type of hair loss is also called androgenic alopecia, or male/female pattern baldness.
- The hair loss occurs in very predictable patterns across the scalp and progressively advances over time.
- The doctor might recommend a blood test for hair loss in addition to examining the scalp to rule out other potential causes.
Hair-care Routines & Hairstyles
- Certain hairstyles and hair care routines run the risk of damaging the hair and making them either break or fall out.
- Frequent straightening treatments, and hairstyles that cause too much traction on the scalp run the risk of causing hair to fall out and lead to hair loss.
- Applying excessive heat to the scalp also leads to an increased risk of hair loss.
- Hormonal imbalances such as menopause or childbirth can cause hair loss. This is often temporary and the lost hair is regained after the hormone levels stabilize.
- Thyroid fluctuations and illnesses of the thyroid including hypo and hyperthyroidism are also known causes of hair loss in affected individuals. Like other imbalances, treating the hormonal imbalance stops hair loss and allows the hair to grow back.
- If you’re thinking about seeing a dermatologist for hair loss associated with such disturbances, you will likely be referred to other departments that will deal with the underlying issue upon performing a blood test for hair loss issues.
Stress & Traumatic Events
- Stress and emotional trauma have a major impact on hair health.
- Hair thinning, breakage, and hair loss can occur due to emotional trauma or stressful situations.
- The improvement of mental health often returns hair health to normal.
Medications, Treatments, & Side Effects
- Hair loss can even occur as a side effect of several medications that are used to treat conditions like cancer, acute infections, hypertension, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, or radiation therapy.
- Autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata cause hair loss due to the immune system attacking the hair follicles, causing hair to fall out in a circular and patchy pattern.
- Fungal scalp infections or bacterial infections can cause hair loss and loss of hair quality.
Symptoms of Hair Loss
- Hair loss follows several patterns depending on the cause. Some of the common symptoms and patterns of hair loss include:
- Circular hair loss: Patchy hair loss occurs in cases of autoimmune disorders like alopecia areata. Hair loss occurs circularly. When visiting a dermatologist for hair loss of this type, the treatment focus is based on treating the autoimmune illness.
- Patchy hair loss: Patchy hair loss occurs due to fungal infections of the scalp. The most common include ringworm infections. Alongside blood tests for hair loss, a scalp biopsy can help diagnose such infections.
- Progressive thinning & hairline recession: Such hair loss is commonly observed in male & female pattern baldness, where hair is lost from the crown area of the head, and the frontal portions near the forehead - causing the hairline recession. Women might notice the part in their hair growing wider due to hair loss and thinning.
- Sudden hair loss: People suffering from poor mental health, emotional trauma, hormonal imbalances, or undergoing chemo & radiotherapy for cancer undergo sudden hair loss from all over the scalp. Hair might be lost in clumps with a rapid onset. Certain types of hair loss also lead to the loss of hair from all over the body. This is especially common to the side effects of medications and cancer therapies.
Diagnosis & Blood Tests for Hair Loss
- Blood work and physical examinations are common when you see a dermatologist for hair loss.
- The doctor will recommend several tests to see what’s happening within your body to allow them to better understand the real reason for hair loss.
- Before conducting the blood tests for hair loss, your dermatologist will ask you to run through a fairly detailed description of your family history to understand if there’s a genetic component to your hair loss.
- Following this, a comprehensive medical history will also make up your appointment so your doctor can watch out for any medications or lifestyle habits that might be linked to losing hair.
- The doctor will then undertake a physical examination of the scalp to check for the hair quality, any signs of scalp infections, and the pattern of hair loss, and will also perform a simple tug test. The test allows the doctor to check for breakage and the number of strands being dislodged.
- Common blood tests for hair loss include:
- Hormone panel: Since several hormones and their fluctuations are linked to hair loss, the hormone panel looks for abnormalities in testosterone, prolactin, luteinizing hormone, and follicular stimulating hormone levels.
- Thyroid panel: Hyper and hypothyroidism both are linked to hair loss. A thyroid panel is one of the most important blood tests for hair loss due to its many implications on hair health.
- Serum Iron & Ferritin: Low serum iron and ferritin levels lead to deficiencies and result in hair loss.
- Zinc: Deficiencies in zinc are known to cause hair loss.
- STD Panel: Sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis can cause hair loss in the infected individual.
- Complete blood panel: A complete blood panel can point to potential underlying diseases that can be detected by the doctor to help them arrive at a concrete diagnosis.
How to Strengthen Hair Naturally?
- If you’re looking for ways how to strengthen hair and do it naturally, there are a variety of practices that allow for improvement in hair health. These include:
- Improve Vitamin Intake: Vitamin deficiencies impact hair health negatively. Improving intakes of all vitamins, but especially Biotin/Vitamin B7, has shown improvements in some people suffering from hair loss. However, it is important to have a doctor’s prescription for Biotin supplements.
- Be Gentle When Drying Hair: The usage of rough towels can lead to increased friction, frizz, and subsequent hair loss. Switching to a cotton cloth or a t-shirt can improve hair health and prevent frizz.
- Avoid Excess Heat: Dialing down the temperature in the shower and reducing hair straightening treatments can be important steps in case you’re wondering about how to strengthen hair naturally. It might also help to turn down the heat in the blow drier to improve hair health.
- Increase Protein Intake: Incorporating healthy, lean protein can help in improving hair quality. Since hair’s building blocks are made of protein, it is only logical that having a healthy amount of protein in the diet will help in maintaining the quality and volume of hair on the head.
- Scalp Massage: Indulging in scalp massage is one of the simplest ways of strengthening hair naturally. The movements and pressure improve blood circulation to the scalp, promoting hair retention and growth. Massages also relieve muscular tension in the scalp - a factor linked to hair loss.
- Avoid Shampooing Too Frequently: While shampooing keeps the scalp and hair clean, frequent usage can strip the hair and scalp of its natural oils, potentially causing dry, frizzy hair, and a dry scalp. Avoid shampooing daily, and switch to a thrice-a-week hair wash regimen.
- Take Cold Showers: Cold showers can help tighten the pores and cuticles on the scalp, promoting better moisture retention and reducing the risk of hair loss and hair breakage.
Treatment & Outlook
- Now that you understand how to strengthen hair, it’s important to know that not all forms of hair loss are treatable.
- When visiting a dermatologist for hair loss, it’s important to know that the basic treatment revolves around minimizing hair loss and improving hair health.
- Solutions like Minoxidil help users minimize hair loss and even regrow some amount of lost hair. However, regrowing all hair is not a possibility. Despite its effectiveness, Minoxidil takes at least 6 months to show effects and must be applied regularly. Ceasing the treatment makes the hair loss return.
- Finasteride, oral medication also helps in minimizing hair loss and regrowing some amount of lost hair. This medication also takes at least 4 to 6 months to show results and must be taken regularly to prevent hair loss from returning.
- Other options such as hair transplant and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections have also become popular options.
- On the other hand, combining minoxidil and finasteride therapy with practices such as micro-needling also has known effects.
- Doctors will also look to treat any infections or autoimmune diseases in the individuals affected by such illnesses to resolve the hair problem.
Get in touch with your dermatologist if you have more questions about your hair loss! Avoid self-medicating, and always consult with your doctor before taking any supplements for hair health.